State Catholic conference opposes voter ID bills

| February 3, 2011 | 8 Comments

It was standing room only for a House committee hearing on a proposal to require photo identification for voters.

For nearly two hours Thursday, supporters and opponents of two photo ID bills testified before the Government Operations and Elections Committee.

The bills, authored by state Reps. Mary Kiffmeyer (R-Big Lake) and Mike Benson (R-Rochester), would require voters to present a photo ID before receiving a ballot at their polling place. Both bills allow for voters to obtain free government IDs if they do not have a driver’s license or other acceptable form of identification.

Supporters of the bills argue that the state’s current voting system does not provide adequate safeguards against abuse.

Opponents, including the Minnesota Catholic Conference, say the requirement would disenfranchise the elderly, college students and minorities.

Katie Conlin, interim social concerns director for MCC, told The Catholic Spirit: “The reality is that a lot of people don’t have photo identification. And while these bills would create a free government-issued ID for people, . . . that doesn’t address the difficulty in getting that ID for some folks.

“You would still have to have some sort of supporting documentation in order to get the ID,” Conlin explained. “Let’s say you’re a woman who got married and had a name change. Then you would have to have your birth certificate, your marriage license and proof of your current residence.

“Then you’d have to get to wherever it is that the ID is going to be issued,” she added. “It would affect anyone with limited access to

Conlin also questioned the effectiveness of photo IDs to prevent voter fraud.

“It’s not that we’re opposed to having a good, clear, clean voting system,” she said.

Rather, it would be a waste of taxpayers’ money on an unnecessary measure, she said. “All the known prosecutions have been for convicted felons voting, and a voter ID would not indicate whether a person is a felon.”

The House panel is scheduled to vote on the bills next Tuesday.

The Minnesota Catholic Conference is the social policy arm of the state’s bishops.

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