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Hennepin County Board Poised to Oppose Voter ID Amendment

Commissioners in MN's biggest county are set to vote Tuesday on the resolution, and they could do more to defeat the proposed change to the state Constitution.

A majority of Hennepin County commissioners want you to vote "No" on the proposed Voter Photo ID amendment to the Minnesota Constitution.

The county board is set to vote Tuesday on a resolution opposing the change and asking voters to vote against it in the Nov. 6 general election. (See first PDF.) In seven Whereas clauses, the resolution argues that:

  • "language on the ballot is significantly different than the language in the actual amendment, and the Minnesota State Legislature has not defined what kinds of valid 'government-issued' photographic identification will be required for citizens to have their vote counted"
  • "in Hennepin County there has been no evidence—either proven or anecdotal—of voter impersonation, which is the only type of fraud that could be cured by the imposition of a government-issued voter identification program"
  • "the proposed amendment raises many serious questions about the fate of Election Day registration and leaves too many unanswered questions surrounding a provisional voting system"
  • "this proposed amendment will likely cost millions in taxpayer dollars to operate, and could result in unfunded state mandates"
  • "constitutional amendments should not be used to stifle, prevent, or restrict voting in any way"

Board chair Mike Opat said he introduced his resolution near Election Day for greatest impact. And he said he might push for further steps to get the board majority's view on the issue to the public—such as by promoting a "Vote No" message online or by other means. 

Lone Opponent?
At least one commissioner is opposed to any county Vote No efforts. Jeff Johnson cast the lone vote against the resolution when it passed the board's Intergovernmental Affairs Committee last week 4-1 vote. (Commissioner Randy Johnson abstained—more on that below.)

Jeff Johnson said he has seen very few yard signs on the issue as he travels his district, the 7th, which extends from Maple Grove and Plymouth on the east to communities west of Lake Minnetonka on the west.

He said he supports the Voter ID amendment but also opposes the nonpartisan county board taking a position on any electoral matter: "I don't believe we should be doing this at all."

He also said he opposed other county board efforts to spread the Vote No on Photo ID message—including the press release announcing the committee's action last week. (See second PDF.)

But Jeff Johnson said he is resigned to the Vote No resolution passing Tuesday, on a 5-1 or 4-2 vote, depending on the board's other Commissioner Johnson.

He Abstained, Awaiting Answers
Commissioner Randy Johnson, whose 5th District includes Richfield and southern Eden Prairie, said he abstained in the committee vote because county staff didn't have answers for all his questions.

"We need time to do more research," Randy Johnson said the day after the committee vote. Topics of his questions to the county attorney and elections staff related to:

  • the procedure for checking addresses on college IDs
  • the language in the bill that passed the Legislature
  • how the election process would actually work

Opat disagreed: "We've done all the studying we need to do."

He said Hennepin County's action would be significant. "Ramsey County and a number of cities [have passed similar measures]," Opat said. But Hennepin County will be "by far the biggest" local government to stake out a Vote No position on Minnesota's proposed Voter ID amendment.

Others voting in favor of the Vote No resolution in committee included Gail Dorfman (3rd District, including St. Louis Park and Southwest Minneapolis), Peter McLaughlin (4th District, including other parts of Minneapolis), and Jan Callison (6th District, including Edina, Hopkins, Minnetonka, northern Eden Prairie, and communities east of Lake Minnetonka).

The county board's 2nd District seat (which includes Golden Valley, and stretches from Plymouth to St. Anthony) has been vacant since the resignation of Mark Stenglein and will be filled in the Nov. 6 election between Linda Higgins and Blong Yang.

Emily B October 30, 2012 at 08:01 PM
I have no problem with Commissioner Johnson abstaining, as long as he also does so next Tuesday, in which case his vote will also count as a "No" on this poorly written and badly visioned amendment.

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