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Minnesotans reject voter ID amendment

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Gov. Mark Dayton
Gov. Mark Dayton speaks during Our Vote Our Future election night celebration party on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012, at Saint Paul RiverCentre in St. Paul.
MPR Photo/Anthony Kwan

In a dramatic reversal, Minnesotans on Tuesday rejected a constitutional amendment that would have required voters to show a photo ID before casting a ballot. The measure had enjoyed strong popular support just weeks earlier.

With 99 percent of the state's precincts reporting, supporters had managed to garner just 46.3 percent of the vote. Under state law, the amendment needed more than 50 percent approval to pass.

TakeAction Minnesota's Dan McGrath, leaning on crutches from a recent soccer injury, took the podium at St. Paul's Rivercentre to recount the journey that led his campaign to victory. McGrath thanked supporters and volunteers.

"We are not just here to defend our democracy," he declared. "This campaign has lit a grassroots fire that has swept our state. We want a politics that happens by us, and not to us. Tonight I'm so happy to say we closed the chapter on no and we opened the chapter on yes — yes to a future where Minnesota unites in active grassroots democracy."

Voter ID supporters had argued the measure would combat voter fraud and improve the integrity of elections. Some of those supporters gathered at O'Gara's Bar and Grill in St. Paul early in the evening, but they were gone by about midnight, as it seemed increasingly likely their side was headed for defeat.

A leader of the pro-amendment forces, also named Dan McGrath, conceded that supporters did not have enough votes to pass the measure. He said the proponents of the proposed requirement would turn their attention to passing a voter ID bill in the 2013 session.

"Now we press on and keep doing what we've been doing," he said.

Initially, polls had indicated a large majority of Minnesotans supported voter ID. But recent polls found voters were pretty evenly split on the issue. A KSTP/SurveyUSA Poll of likely voters, taken late last week, found a virtual tie on the voter ID question, with 48 percent supporting it, 48 percent opposed and 5 percent undecided.

The pro-amendment McGrath, whose organization is called Protect My Vote, accused the opposition of trying to bring the amendment down with a "campaign of lies and deception," relying on out-of- state groups that want to "interfere in Minnesota's election process."

"There have been millions of dollars of out-of-state, mostly Washington, D.C., special interest group money flowing into Minnesota to run campaign ads that make absolute lies about the voter ID amendment," he said. McGrath said the ads likely eroded support for the ballot question.

Protect My Vote raised about $1.5 million to promote its position. But the leading voter ID opposition group received $2.9 million in contributions. Both sides spent heavily on TVs ads.