Let it pass or fail

Published 10:16 am Friday, April 29, 2011

Daily Herald editorial

Even before they had passed the first version of their voter identification bill, Republican lawmakers were making plans to push the measure forward as a constitutional amendment on which voters would decide directly. Putting measure on the ballot, as opposed to working through the basic legislative process, is not the best way to conduct the state’s business.

Voter I.D. is a favorite cause for Republicans, who say that it is necessary to preserve the sanctity of the ballot box. They fear that voter fraud will otherwise become common. Opponents say it will disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of Minnesota citizens who don’t have government-issued photo identification. And they suspect that people who don’t have photo I.D. are more likely to vote Democrat — in other words, that it’s a political issue. The governor, a Democrat, was poised to veto the bill and may, by the time this editorial appears, have already done so.

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Lawmakers have a recourse when their work is vetoed; they can override with a super-majority vote. But voter I.D. supporters apparently fear they could not muster such a super-majority so, instead, will pass the buck along to the voters in the form of an amendment on the 2012 ballot.

Amending the state’s constitution may from time to time be necessary and advisable. But attempting an amendment simply as a legislative maneuver is bending the system to purposes for which it is not intended. Minnesotans elect lawmakers with the expectation that they will do their jobs, not in the expectation that they will play games with the constitution when they can’t do their jobs.

If there’s a large enough majority in the House and Senate to make voter identification a law through the legislative process, well and good. If not, the measure should be allowed to die or, at the least, wait another year.