LA CRESCENT, Minnesota (WXOW) – On November 6, Minnesota voters will decide whether or not to change their state's constitution by adding in a voter identification amendment.
Minnesota's Republican controlled legislature previously passed a voter id law, but it was vetoed by Democratic Governor Mark Dayton in May, 2011.
"You don't have the same legislative roadblocks with this amendment," said Dr. Tim Dale, a professor of political science at the UW-La Crosse. "A law has to be signed into law by a governor, but ballot and amendment measures have different steps to the process."
If passed, Minnesota's amendment would require voters to present a photo id at the polls.
"A constitutional amendment can't be overturned by a state supreme court," Dale said. "One of the issues that come up with voter id is whether it's constitutional to pass it, and the state the state constitution is the first legal stop in ruling on the constitutionality of voter id."
"So if you pass a state constitutional amendment, you're skipping over that legal question within the state," Dale said. Although he added the federal government can still challenge the amendment.
Houston County Auditor Char Meiners said the amendment does not specify how absentee voting would be handled.
It reads, "all voters, including those not voting in person, must be subject to substantially equivalent identity and eligibility verification prior to a ballot being cast or counted," but does not specify what type of identification absentee voters can use.
"A portion of La Crescent City, which is located in Winona County, they vote by mail," Meiners said. "How are you going to vote by mail and show your id like you would at the polling place on Election Day? If you're a military person if Afghanistan, how are you going to show me your id?"
Meiners added the amendment allows those voting in person who do not possess id cards to cast provisional ballots, which would be counted once those voters returned to their respective polling places with identification.
The amendment calls for Minnesota to provide free voter identification to all who want it.
"I'm not here to tell anybody how to vote," Meiners said, "but I do feel it's my job to tell people how this would affect them if it should pass."
Dale said whatever the voters decide on November 6, that decision will certainly have staying power.
"It's harder to make something an amendment than a law," Dale said. "We're comfortable with the constitution being a very hard thing to change."
"So if voter id is able to reach that level, of a constitutional amendment, it has to have a sustained series of victories and large amounts of public support that a simple law doesn't have to have."
"That's the legitimacy voter id is looking for," Dale added.
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