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Voters decide against voter ID

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ST. PAUL -- Minnesota voters do not want to prove who they are.

Forty-six percent of voters Tuesday wanted to amend the state Constitution to require a photo ID before voting, but 50 percent was needed.

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The Minnesota vote went against a trend in other states to approve voter ID.

Election officials said they know of little voter fraud and said the constitutional amendment would cost millions of dollars, but supporters said that democracy demands fair elections. To ensure fairness, they said, Minnesotans must submit photographic identifications before voting.

The voter ID concept was pushed by legislative Republicans. Debate on the issue is occurring in many states, with the National Conference of State Legislatures reporting a dozen states have voter photo ID requirements.

Some voter ID laws are under court review, including one in Wisconsin. Observers said they expected the Minnesota constitutional amendment also to face legal action if voters approved it.

Republicans who fear voter fraud passed a voter ID bill in 2011, but Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton vetoed it, saying he would not sign a bill changing election laws without significant bipartisan support.

Constitutional amendment proposals are passed by the Legislature, this year controlled by Republicans, and go directly to voters. The governor has no official say, although Dayton has campaigned against voter ID.

Voter ID supporters say they have dug up files on hundreds of illegal votes. Most, however, were felons whose voting rights had not been restored, a category of illegal voters that amendment opponents say would not be affected by requiring an ID.

Opponents say such a constitutional amendment would disenfranchise voters such as the elderly, the poor, minorities and others who would find it difficult to obtain photo IDs.

The amendment would have required photo IDs, but accepted "substantially equivalent" identification from absentee and other voters who do not cast ballots in polling places on Election Day.

It would have been up to the next Legislature to determine what is equivalent to a photo ID and to enact a number of laws to implement the amendment.

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Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.
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