On April 27, 2011, Mary Kiffmeyer introduced the first of a handful of bills she sponsored to put a photo ID amendment on the ballot, even before Governor Mark Dayton vetoed her bill to change state law to require Minnesotans to present a valid state-issued ID to vote.
Now she's claiming that she was motivated to write the legislation to counter U.S. Attorney General Holder's investigation into photo ID laws passed in other states. In Kiffmeyer touts reasons for Voter ID amendment, she tells the New Ulm Journal:
When asked whether an amendment was the best method for pursuing concerns over voter fraud, Kiffmeyer said her Voter ID bill last year was vetoed by Gov. Mark Dayton. She said that when she saw U.S Attorney-General Eric Holder challenging Voter ID laws in other states for conflict with respective state constitutions, she decided that a constitutional amendment was the best way to guarantee the law would not be struck down.
This must be a variation on the new Republican Retroactive Olympics, since Kiffmeyer shared other explanations for her motives when she first introduced a pair of amendment bills in the spring of 2011. The first bill, introduced in April, was intended to signal to Dayton that his resistance to signing a photo ID legislation bill was futile.
In April 2011, Minnesota Majority's Dan McGrath wrote in Voter ID Constitutional Amendment Introduced:
Representatives Kiffmeyer and Benson are likely to be known forever more as the Voter ID team. Joined by Speaker of the House Kurt Zellers and 31 other co-authors, they introduced an elegant proposed amendment (HF1597) to the Minnesota Constitution to require photo ID to vote. . . .
Proposed amendments to the Constitution, if passed by the legislature go straight to the People of Minnesota. The Governor has no role in the amendment process and can’t veto the measures. If Governor Dayton had a mind to veto the 21st Century Voter ID bill, there’s not much point with this amendment coming. . . .
Apparently, that wasn't enough of a threat, so Kiffmeyer got busy, introducing yet another voter restriction amendment on May 4, 2011, HF 1662. The next year, she was the chief author of three additional cookie-cutter bills, for a total of five for the 87th Session of the Minnesota Legislature.
Bluestem is completely impressed with Kiffmeyer's retroactive foresight, since Bluestem can't find any mention of Holder's action when she introduced the bills in 2011. Not online, not on Nexis.
We did find something that illustrates her retroactive foresight, however.
Holder did not announce the DOJ's intentions to scrutinize new photo ID voting laws until the fall of 2011, following months of public demands by U.S. Senators and civil liberties and rights groups. On June 29, 2011, the Associated Press reported in Senators concerned by photo ID requirement to vote:
Sixteen Democratic senators want the Justice Department to look into whether voting rights are being jeopardized in states that require photo identification in order for people to vote.
The lawmakers wrote Attorney General Eric Holder on Wednesday to express concern that millions of voters do not have a government-issued ID — particularly older people, racial minorities, low-income voters and students.
The senators say the photo ID requirements have the potential to block millions of eligible people from exercising their right to vote.
The AP story--posted by Fox News--is typical of reporting through the summer, as Democratic lawmakers and civil rights & liberties groups asked the DOJ to review the impact the new laws had on voting rights. There aren't reports about letters of this sort being sent to Holder at the time when Kiffmeyer introduced the first two of five copycat amendment bills, nor can Bluestem find evidence that Holder's actions, rather than those of Dayton, played a role in her bill scribbling.
The first report that suggests Holder plans to use the power of the DOJ under the Voting Rights Act comes on October 27, 2011 in DOJ Might Strike Down Photo ID Laws, a secondhand report citing members of the Congressional Black Caucus following a meeting with Holder.
Months after Kiffmeyer first introduced photo ID amendments bills in an attempt to strong arm the governor.
On November 9, 2011, Ari Bermon at the Nation reported in Voting Rights Restored in Maine, Restricted in Mississippi:
The NAACP and ACLU are considering challenging the new law, which must also receive approval from the Justice Department as specified by the Voting Rights Act before going into effect. “This Department of Justice will be aggressive at looking at those jurisdictions that have attempted for whatever reason to restrict the ability of people to get to the polls,” Attorney General Eric Holder said at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing yesterday.
Why did Kiffmeyer reach for Holder's name while visiting New Ulm? With the conservative sturm and drang over The Fast And Furious, Holder's a bete noire for the Republican base on any number of levels. Might Kiffmeyer's readily fact-checked retroactive reasoning be a dogwhistle to awake that fearful universe of voters from whom Minnesota Majority seeks to draw votes?
Photo: Mary Kiffmeyer's war of voters?