By Kristen Miller
In addition to the local, state, and presidential offices up for election, Minnesota voters will be asked to vote on two questions to amend the state constitution.
Question one is to add to the constitution that the recognition of marriage is solely between one man and one woman, and asks, “Shall the Minnesota Constitution be amended to provide that only a union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Minnesota? Yes or No.”
The second question, which would be to require voters to provide photo identification, asks voters: “Shall the Minnesota Constitution be amended to require all voters to present valid photo identification to vote and to require the state to provide free identification to eligible voters, effective July 1, 2013? Yes or No.”
Article VII Section 1 of the state constitution currently states: (a) Every person 18 years of age or more who has been a citizen of the United States for three months and who has resided in the precinct for 30 days preceding an election shall be entitled to vote in that precinct. The place of voting by one otherwise qualified who has changed his residence within 30 days preceding the election shall be prescribed by law.
The following persons shall not be entitled or permitted to vote at any election in this state: A person not meeting the above requirements; a person who has been convicted of treason or felony, unless restored to civil rights; a person under guardianship, or a person who is insane or not mentally competent.
The proposed amendment would add to the article the following: (b) All voters voting in person must present valid government-issued photographic identification before receiving a ballot. The state must issue photographic identification at no charge to an eligible voter who does not have a form of identification meeting the requirements of this section. A voter unable to present government-issued photographic identification must be permitted to submit a provisional ballot. A provisional ballot must only be counted if the voter certifies the provisional ballot in the manner provided by law.
(c) All voters, including those not voting in person, must be subject to substantially equivalent identity and eligibility verification prior to a ballot being cast or counted.
More information on constitutional amendments
The Minnesota Secretary of State offers additional answers to some of the questions regarding constitutional amendments.
Q: Is it true that if I don’t vote on a constitutional amendment, it is the same as a “no” vote?
A: Yes, that is true. Constitutional amendments by law must be passed by a majority of all of the voters who vote on Election Day. Therefore, if you don’t vote on this question the effect is the same as a “no” vote.
Q: How many times has the Minnesota Constitution been amended?
A: Since 1980, 17 amendments to the Constitution have been approved by the voters of Minnesota.
The last constitutional amendment was in 2008 when voters approved increasing the sales and use tax rate to protect the state’s natural resources and preserve Minnesota’s arts and cultural heritage. Prior to that it was in 2006 when voters approved dedicating the motor vehicle sales tax to highways and public transportation.
Q: How do I learn more about the proposed amendments which will appear on the 2012 ballot?
A: Minnesota Statutes 10.60 requires the Office of the Secretary of State to provide the website of any individual or group advocating for or against or providing neutral information with respect to a ballot question.
A partial list of such organizations can be found at www.mnvotes.org.
Q: Will there be a recount on either amendment if the vote is close?
A: There are no recounts on constitutional amendments. All disputes are handled by a three-judge panel appointed by the Chief Justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court.
Q: How many votes does an amendment need in order for it to pass?
A: A majority of all voters casting ballots in the election must vote for the amendment in order for it to pass.
Q: In what order do the questions appear, and where on the ballot will the amendments be located?
A: Statute does not dictate the order in which proposed amendments should appear on the actual ballot. They have typically appeared in the order in which they were passed. Constitutional amendments appear on the ballot immediately following the federal and state offices but before the local offices.
Q: How do I familiarize myself with the constitutional amendment questions before I go to the polls Nov. 6, 2012?
A: You can view the title of the amendment, the final submission to voters, and see where the question appears on the ballot by viewing your sample ballot in the weeks leading up to the election. You can find your sample ballot at www.mnvotes.org. The Minnesota Voters Bill of Rights states that eligible voters may take a copy of the sample ballot with them into the polling place.