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TJ Jerke, Forum News Service, Published February 09 2013

Amendment would require ID to vote in North Dakota

BISMARCK – North Dakota could go from taking people at their word on Election Day to requiring them to show a photo ID in order to vote, under a bill passed by a House committee Friday.

The House Government and Veterans Affair Committee gave a do-pass recommendation to House Bill 1332 after the bill sponsor, Rep. Randy Boehning, R-Fargo, vice chairman of the committee, “hoghoused” his original bill, stripping it of its old language and adding new language to include the identification requirement. It also has a provision that the state would provide an ID card at no cost to an eligible voter without a driver’s license.

The bill was passed out of committee with the amendment quickly, which concerned committee member Rep. Marie Strinden, D-Grand Forks. Strinden said the new language of the bill doesn’t address identification issues concerning college students, elderly or homeless individuals.

“It didn’t have the kinks worked out. It could be very harmful in its written form,” she said. “It’s too big of a policy issue to decide in five minutes without hearing from experts.”

Committee Chairman Rep. Jim Kasper, R-Fargo, said the bill had to be voted out of committee quickly since Friday was the last day to pass any bills out of committee that would require funding from the state.

The bill does not yet include a price tag for the cost of issuing the photo IDs.

The idea for the amendment came after hearings over two bills that addressed voter affidavits and changing state law that allows a voter without an ID to cast a ballot.

There is no voter registration in North Dakota. Residents are currently allowed to vote by signing an affidavit found on the back of a ballot that acknowledges the voter did not have the proper ID but is an eligible North Dakota voter.

The Secretary of State’s Office then sends a card through the mail to the voter; if the card is returned, the secretary’s office will issue an investigation to determine if the voter was eligible.

Secretary of State Al Jaeger said discussion of voter affidavits is one of the larger issues he is monitoring during the session, in which lawmakers are considering more than 50 bills regarding election-related issues.

Jaeger told the committee on Thursday that 10,519 affidavits were filed in the 2012 statewide election.

He said it’s a big concern ensuring the 3.2 percent of the 325,519 North Dakotans who voted in 2012 are allowed to vote.

“We’re taking ballots in without any evidence of the voters’ qualifications,” he said.

Kasper also was concerned about ballots cast with no proof of ID and only a signed affidavit.

“That allows a situation, with the population growing dramatically, the opportunity for abuse – intended or unintended,” Kasper said Thursday. “One of the most important parts of our republic is the ability to vote, and we have to protect that.”

So he sponsored House Bill 1275 to change the state’s voting affidavit laws to hold the ballot until a voter who did not have identification at the polling location came back to show proof of identification at the poll, or to the county auditor before the county canvassing board meets and officially counts the ballots.

Rep. Kim Koppelman, R-West Fargo, proposed similar legislation in House Bill 1418.

No committee action has been taken on either bill.


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