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PoliGraph: Entenza right about Otto’s voter ID record

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In his bid to defeat State Auditor Rebecca Otto in the August primary, DFL hopeful Matt Entenza has gone back – way back – into Otto’s voting record during her time in the state Legislature.

Entenza contends Otto supported new voting rules when she served in the House that would have required people to show photo identification at the polls.

“State Auditor Otto as a legislator… voted for voter ID. We have some differences on that,” Entenza said in a press conference.

Otto says that’s false.

PoliGraph is siding with Entenza in this scuffle.

The Evidence

The Otto-Entenza dust-up started last week, when a supporter asked Otto on Facebook whether she voted in favor of voter ID while in office.

“Did you really vote for voter ID? That is a concern for me,” asked a woman named Lauren Marie. 

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Otto responded by saying, “No, Lauren. It was not around in 2003. No one can find a bill on the issue when I served. Disappointing Matt [Entenza] will say anything on this issue.”

Entenza’s campaign filed a complaint this week with the Office of Administrative Hearings alleging Otto is misrepresenting her record and violating a state law designed to combat false campaign claims.

To support his claim, Entenza points to two votes Otto cast in May 2003.

The first was against an amendment offered by then state Rep. Keith Ellison that would have stripped the following language from an early version of a bill aimed at tweaking election rules (underlined words are the proposed new language):

“A judge may shall, before the applicant signs the [voting] roster, confirm the applicant's identity by requiring a picture identification card or document issued by the United States or Minnesota or an identification card issued by the tribal government of a tribe recognized by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Department of the Interior, and may confirm the applicant's name, address, and date of birth.”

The provision goes on to say that if someone couldn’t produce a photo ID card, they would have to sign an affidavit stating that they are who they say they are. Then, they would be able to vote.

Ellison’s amendment failed, with most Republicans and 13 DFLers, including Otto, voting against it. Ultimately, however, Otto voted against the final version of the overall bill.

Just days later, Otto was among seven DFLers who joined Republicans voting  in favor of a version of the Help America Vote Act conformity bill that included similar language. Entenza was among DFLers who voted against that version of the bill, but ultimately supported the legislation when it came out of conference committee without the requirement that people show ID at the polls.

It’s important to point out that in 2003, the debate over voter ID wasn’t what it is today. Those involved in writing the legislation say they don’t recall the provision being a major sticking point.

Further, the language from the 2003 bill differs from the constitutional amendment on the ballot in 2012, in no small part because it would have allowed people to vote right after they signed an affidavit. The constitutional amendment would have created a provisional balloting system.

Still, state Sen. Mary Kiffmeyer, R-Big Lake, who sponsored the 2012 voter ID ballot question and who was Secretary of State in 2003, said that she considered the old language a form of voter ID.

And according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, which tracks various voter ID laws, other states have rules similar to the 2003 proposal, including Delaware and South Dakota.

For her part, Otto says that she objected to the 2012 voter ID constitutional amendment, and that Entenza is using an issue unrelated to the State Auditor’s office to play “really dirty politics.”

She adds that the Legislature had to authorize the Help America Vote Act conformity bill, and that she was told by House DFL leadership, which included Entenza, to vote for it.

“I didn’t serve on any committees, as a brand-new lawmaker who knew not much, that would have dealt with election bills,” Otto said. “When you’re in that position as a new lawmaker you’re usually advised by leadership, and Matt was in leadership, on how to vote on an issue. You rely on other people and other committees.”

The Verdict

Otto says she didn’t support the 2012 voter ID constitutional amendment, and it is true that legislators didn’t debate such an amendment while Otto was in office.

But Entenza is correct that Otto cast two votes during her time in office, in both instances joining a large group of Republicans to vote against an amendment that would stripped voter ID requirements from one bill, and then approving legislation that would require people to show ID at the polls.

Entenza’s claim is accurate.

ADDITIONAL SOURCES

Katie Owens Hubler, NCSL

Dave Colling, spokesperson, Matt Entenza for State Auditor

Shawn Otto, Rebecca Otto for State Auditor

Former Sen. Linda Higgins