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TJ Jerke, Forum News Service, Published February 13 2013

ND House passes voter ID amendment

BISMARCK - Despite arguments that a significant proposed change to the North Dakota voting process was not given enough attention by a House committee, the House on Tuesday passed an amendment that would require voters to show identification before casting a ballot.

The amendment would require all voters to present a valid ID before they cast their ballot during a primary or general election. The ID does not need to include a photo.

The amendment’s sponsor, Rep. Randy Boehning, R-Fargo, and other lawmakers are concerned about the current system that allows a voter to cast a ballot without proof of eligibility by signing an affidavit that says they are a North Dakota resident.

The state currently requires identification that includes a voter’s name, address and age. Voters can use a combination of any state issued identification, along with a utility bill or change of address verification to prove residency. ID’s currently accepted include: driver’s license, military IDs, passports, tribal government IDs and student IDs. North Dakota does not have voter registration.

The amendment does offer to purchase a photo ID for anyone that does not have a driver’s license and cannot afford one, but it is unclear how much that may cost the state.

Boehning told the House he is still working on the amendment to address concerns about college students and elderly voters. Those are groups that are less likely to have identification showing a current address.

“I know many things need to be fixed in this bill, it is a work in progress,” Boehning said.

The issue began late last week after members of the House Government and Veterans Affairs Committee, said House Bill 1332 was “hoghoused” and stripped of its original intent to include the amendment.

So some committee members were worried the bill, with its new amendment, did not receive enough attention before it was quickly passed out of committee.

The Legislature rarely debates an amendment during a floor session, which sparked some of the debate when House Minority Leader, Rep. Kenton Onstad, D-Parshall, asked that the amendment, which he said has “glaring imperfections,” be heard separately from the more than 20 other amendments that were approved, all at once, by the full body.

The amendment passed with a verification vote, so nobody, except the Speaker of the House, knows how each lawmaker voted on the issue.

It will soon be heard in front of the House Appropriations Committee, where it will receive a recommendation and be up for debate on the House floor again.

Reach Forum News Service Bismarck reporter TJ Jerke at tjerke@forumcomm.com or 701-255-5607