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Partisanship disqualifies Voter ID

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opinion Detroit Lakes, 56501

Detroit Lakes Minnesota 511 Washington Avenue 56501

One of the U.S. Constitution's great strengths is the fact that amending the document is so difficult. The usual process demands the approval of 2/3 of both houses of Congress and 3/4 of the states. That has kept the U.S. government's founding document remarkably compact.

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Much more important, it means that every amendment has enjoyed broad and bipartisan support. So, while politics continues to divide Washington, that division does not extend to the Constitution. There's no provision in the document that makes either party grit its teeth in frustration or contempt.

That's the principle the Minnesota Senate violated when it backed a Voter ID amendment to the state constitution.

Minnesota's constitution isn't as tough to amend as the federal document is. So be it. Still, a party should think twice before it approves an amendment that's strongly and perhaps unanimously opposed by lawmakers on the other side.

And that's what happened recently when the Minnesota Senate approved the measure, which already was passed by the Minnesota House on a strict party-line vote.

In fact, raw partisanship basically is the reason lawmakers considered the amendment in the first place. A Voter ID law passed both houses in 2011, then was vetoed by Gov. Mark Dayton. But constitutional amendments don't require a governor's signature.

So, now the amendment will go to the voters without Dayton having anything to say about it. And that, the GOP's leaders have said, is the point.

Because this is both a voting issue and a proposed constitutional amendment, the Republican Party's indifference to Democrats' united opposition is a break from Minnesota tradition.

"Bipartisan agreement is especially important on voting rules," the Star Tribune editorialized.

"In the past, Minnesota governors from both parties have rejected photo ID plans because there wasn't adequate buy-in from both parties.

"They shared the view of Gov. Mark Dayton: When it comes to the right to vote, laws should be crafted in a cooperative, bipartisan way that does not give an edge to one party or the other."

Moreover, during the nine-hour debate that preceded the House Republicans' 2 a.m. approval of the amendment, Democrats said the GOP was about to cross a Rubicon.

That's because until now, neither party has resorted to constitutional amendments to push partisan proposals into law.

So, "DFLers warned Republicans that passing the Voter ID amendment was 'the legislative equivalent of the nuclear option,'" MinnPost.com reported.

Rep. Steve Simon, DFL-St. Louis Park, "said that Republicans might have to watch out for a deluge of constitutional amendments if Democrats regain control of the Legislature.

"'This is it,' he said. 'You are starting an arms race that I think you'll regret.'"

On some issues in politics, a political Golden Rule should apply, in which Party 1 treats Party 2 the way Party 1 would like to be treated. Voting rights are one such issue.

-- Grand Forks Herald

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