Voter identification measure debated

2013-03-21T15:58:00Z Voter identification measure debatedBy NICK SMITH | Bismarck Tribune Bismarck Tribune

A Senate committee heard nearly an hour of testimony on a bill that would require a state-issued identification to vote.

The Senate Government and Veterans Affairs Committee on Thursday heard a nearly equal amount of testimony in support and opposition to House Bill 1332.

Rep. Randy Boehning, R-Fargo, introduced HB1332, of which he is the primary sponsor. The bill deals with voter affidavits and outlines a requirement for having a state-issued identification to vote.

“We don’t want to disenfranchise anyone,” Boehning said.

The fiscal note on HB1332 estimates a cost of nearly $250,000 to the Department of Transportation for providing non-photo identification to those who need one to vote per biennium. It would be free to voters since charging for identification would be considered a poll tax.

Boehning said one concern brought up by opponents of HB1332 was the potential for keeping college students from voting.

“We’ve been working very hard with higher ed trying to make it real easy for them to vote,” Boehning said.

Randall Thursby, chief information officer for the North Dakota University System, described a way students can vote while in school. He said students can go to the Campus Connection website and print out a form letter to use with their identification in order to vote.

Jay Schechter of Bismarck spoke in opposition to HB1332.

“What this bill seems to do is create more obstacles rather than making it easier to vote,” Schechter said.

Schechter said the bill reminded him of other states’ efforts to put new voting restrictions in place in 2012. During last year’s election cycle there were voter identification laws in Wisconsin and Texas that were halted for the 2012 election by court order. Some controversial provisions of a Florida voter registration drive law also were halted.

“It seemed to backfire at a certain political party,” Schechter said.

AARP lobbyist Josh Askvig said there’s been one case of voter fraud prosecuted in North Dakota in the past 10 years.

“One instance in the last 10 years; it begs the question of why this is being considered,” Askvig said.

As an example, he asked the committee to consider a 75-year-old voter who’s gone to the same polling location for 50 years and suddenly being told to have a state-issued identification. Askvig said to consider the added burden placed on poll workers. He said the need to inform poll workers of the changes in law could lead to instances of inconsistent or selective enforcement.

No action taken

He suggested that if HB1332 is approved, the deadline for its enactment be moved back so the public can be informed on the need to get a state-issued identification.

No action was taken Thursday on HB1332. Sponsoring the bill along with Boehning are Reps. Bette Grande, R-Fargo, Mike Nathe, R-Bismarck, Roscoe Streyle, R-Minot, Blair Thoreson, R-Fargo, and Alon Wieland, R-West Fargo, and Sen. Spencer Berry, R-Fargo.

Reach Nick Smith at 701-250-8255 or 701-223-8482 or at nick.smith@bismarcktribune.com.

Copyright 2015 Bismarck Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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