Would you be willing to produce a photo ID to vote?

Voter ID protest
College students from throughout the state, alongside Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, gathered on Oct. 23, 2012, at the University of Minnesota to speak out against the proposed voter ID constitutional amendment. The measure was defeated, but a newly-formed state task force launches a study of electronic poll book technology that could revive the debate. (MPR News/Tim Pugmire)

Minnesotans rejected a proposed constitutional amendment last fall that would have required voters in future elections to produce photo identification before casting a ballot. But, MPR News reporter Tim Pugmire writes that a photo identification requirement to vote in Minnesota could again surface as a newly-formed state task force launches a study of electronic poll book technology.

Part of the research will look at the use of photographs as a way to verify voter eligibility. Last fall, Minnesota voters turned down a Republican-backed proposed constitutional amendment to require photo identification at election polls. The task force meets for the first time Tuesday.

Electronic poll books are a computer-based alternative to the paper rosters that voters currently sign their name to at polling places on Election Day. Instead of signing in, a voter's driver's license or some other identification is swiped by a card reader, and their pre-loaded information is displayed on a computer monitor. The city of Minnetonka tested such technology in recent elections and City Clerk David Maeda said he was pleased with the results.

"The feedback from my election judges is just all positive. They really thought this was something that helped them do their jobs better," Maeda said. "And in some cases, I don't think in all cases, but in some cases it reduced the time people had to wait in line."

Under the omnibus elections bill that DFL Gov. Mark Dayton signed into law in May, Minnetonka and four other cities will participate in an electronic roster pilot project during this fall's municipal elections. The law established the 15-member task force that in the upcoming months will study electronic rosters, including the ability to use photographs provided by the Department of Vehicle Services and the ability to add photographs to the roster on Election Day.

"We've been there. We've done that. We put it to the voters and asked them if a photo ID should be required to vote, and they said no," said Dan McGrath, executive director of Take Action Minnesota, the group that lead the statewide campaign to defeat last year's proposed constitutional amendment.

McGrath said he supports efforts to improve the administration of the election system with new technology, but that he remains firmly opposed to any photo identification requirement and will fight against it again if necessary.

"The reason why the photo ID amendment was defeated is because it was too costly, too complicated and it had far too many unintended consequences that would have left hundreds of thousands of voters unable to participate," McGraths aid. "I think that same standard should be applied to any sort of thinking about any future photo ID requirements. It's simply not necessary."

The task force will report early next year on its findings, along with recommendations for a statewide implementation of electronic rosters.

Today's Question: Would you be willing to produce a photo ID to vote?

Create a More Connected Minnesota

MPR News is your trusted resource for the news you need. With your support, MPR News brings accessible, courageous journalism and authentic conversation to everyone - free of paywalls and barriers. Your gift makes a difference.