Willmar, Minn., Republican senator backs ID issue
WILLMAR -- Sen. Joe Gimse said he'll support efforts to put a voter identification issue on the ballot this fall. Gimse, R-Willmar, said he would prefer taking the question of requiring voters to provide photo identification through the legislati...
WILLMAR -- Sen. Joe Gimse said he'll support efforts to put a voter identification issue on the ballot this fall.
Gimse, R-Willmar, said he would prefer taking the question of requiring voters to provide photo identification through the legislative process with hearings and public input, but said Thursday he will sign onto a bill for a proposed constitutional amendment that would be brought to voters in November.
On Wednesday, 10 senators, including Sen. Scott Newman, R-Hutchinson, signed onto two identical bills (SF 1577 and SF 1578) that would put the voter ID issue on the ballot. If approved, the amendment would require people to present a photo ID before voting.
The bills have been referred to the Senate Committee on Local Government and Elections.
"We are disappointed," said Nancy Johnson, who coordinates voter services for the Willmar Area League of Women Voters.
She said the proposed constitutional amendment is "unnecessary" and that funds to implement a voter ID program would be better spent on other state issues.
Bonita Kallestad, president of the Willmar Area League of Women Voters, said the proposed amendment is "against everything the League of Women Voters has stood for in our 91-year history" and their members will work to defeat it.
Gimse has promoted the voter ID issue since he was first elected in 2006.
The Republican-controlled Legislature passed a bill last year to require voters to have photo ID, but it was vetoed by Gov. Mark Dayton, a DFLer who said there's little voter fraud in Minnesota. Dayton also argued that the GOP's requirement would be expensive to implement and would stifle voting, especially among the elderly and college students.
Gimse said he hadn't been aware of the recent introduction of bills for making the photo ID requirement for voting a constitutional amendment.
He said he had hoped efforts would resume to launch the issue through the legislative process because it would "get the information out to the public."
But Gimse said since lawmakers had "already been down that process" that resulted in a veto, he said he would support a constitutional amendment.
Because only five senators can sign onto a bill - and because voter ID is such a popular issue with legislators - Gimse said he expects there will be additional "clone" bills so that more senators, like him, can sign onto it.
He said 70 to 75 percent of Minnesotans support voter ID requirements.
"People feel strongly that this is something that makes sense," said Gimse. "I don't see where this would be an issue that would divide the state."
Considering that there are multiple safeguards already in place to prevent voter fraud in Minnesota, Johnson said it doesn't make sense to spend additional money that the state doesn't have to change a system that already works.
"Why would you fix a system that isn't broken?" said Johnson.
Gimse said voting is "one of the most sacred things we do as a free society" and that people are required to show a photo ID for "less important" things like cashing a check.
Johnson said even if money is allocated to help people get a photo ID, it may still be physically impossible for some, especially Minnesota's senior citizens, to get one.
The League will conduct a program in May in Willmar to discuss why they oppose the constitutional amendment to require photo ID be presented by every voter before voting.