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Group wants photo ID requirement for voters

DULUTH - To prevent election fraud, the Minnesota Voters Alliance believes that people in the state should be required to present a photo ID before being allowed to vote.

The group is starting its efforts by targeting Duluth and St. Paul. The nonprofit citizens group announced Wednesday that it will hold petition drives to put the question on the ballot for the 2009 municipal elections in the two cities.

The drive will have no effect on this year's election.

The initiative would ask voters if they approve a requirement for voters to show a photo ID, such as a driver's license, when voting in general elections.

"This is a democratic effort, and the people up there can reject it," said Andy Cilek, the alliance's executive director. "We're not trying to push anything on them. They are going to have a choice."

Cilek said the group is beginning with Duluth and St. Paul because they are both home rule charter cities and because the alliance has contacts in both.

Home rule charter cities operate under a locally adopted charter, while statutory cities operate under the state's statutory city code. Home rule charter cities can exercise any power in their charters as long as they don't conflict with state laws.

"Our charter doesn't get into too much election detail because it follows state statutes," Duluth City Clerk Jeff Cox said. "There are provisions for changing our charter."

Cox referred the question of whether Duluth can require photo IDs of voters to City Attorney Gunnar Johnson.

"I haven't looked at that issue at all, so I don't have an opinion," Johnson said. "That's not something we have dealt with. If they proceed forward, it will be something we'll look into."

The alliance conducted a random survey of 250 voters in St. Paul in September, with 95 percent favoring a photo ID requirement, Cilek said.

"I think we should really question the political motivations of people who are opposed to it," he said. "If I cast a ballot, I don't want there to even be a chance that it would be diluted by something that was cast illegally."

The alliance probably will start gathering signatures in late November, he said. The new rules, if enacted, would include provisions ensuring that all voters could receive a photo ID regardless of economic circumstances.

For the initiative to be put on the ballot, the group must submit a petition signed by a number of electors equal to at least 10 percent of the total number of ballots cast in the last preceding general municipal election, according to Duluth's charter.