Can Emmer win Minnesota on voter-ID issue?

Minnesota has a well-deserved reputation for liberal policies, but a certain kind of pragmatic streak exists in the Upper Midwest. For instance, most people don’t realize that Minnesota has not had a Democratic governor (called DFL in this state) since 1986. Tom Emmer wants to continue that streak as the Republican-endorsed candidate to replace outgoing Governor Tim Pawlenty, and Eric Ostermeier at Smart Politics believes that the conservative issue of ID verification for voters may boost his chances:

Upon winning the Republican endorsement for Governor of Minnesota on Friday, State Representative Tom Emmer’s goal now shifts from simply rallying the GOP base to also building a coalition of Republicans, independents, and conservative Democrats to secure a majority (or winning plurality) of the 2010 gubernatorial vote.

While Emmer, generally viewed as more (demonstrably) conservative than outgoing Republican Governor Tim Pawlenty, will no doubt be lambasted from the left end of the ideological spectrum in the Gopher State for many of his beliefs and issue positions, there is little doubt that a larger percentage of Democrats are open to voting Republican than normal in the current political climate. …

As it happens, one of Emmer’s signature issues, voter ID, is indeed a 75/25 issue in Minnesota, and is one of the ten main issues addressed on his campaign website (under “The Issues: Elections”).

In late 2008, a Rasmussen poll of 500 likely voters in Minnesota found nearly three-quarters (73 percent) were in favor of showing photo identification, such as a driver’s license, before being allowed to vote. Only 20 percent were opposed. A similar Rasmussen poll conducted in Minnesota a few years prior also found an overwhelming split in favor of voter ID: 83 percent in favor and 13 percent opposed.

Emmer has been championing voter ID for years now in the State House of Representatives, and has consistently stated such legislation is not a partisan issue. While the DFL leadership has not warmed to his proposals, the polling data outlined above bears out his claim.

Tom Emmer has worked in the state legislature for years, so he’s hardly an unknown quantity for Minnesota voters. He is seen as somewhat more conservative than Pawlenty, at least on the campaign stump. The Palin endorsement will underscore that assessment, but really only for those who haven’t paid any attention at all to Minnesota politics for more than a decade — and those aren’t likely going to be the ones turning out in this midterm election year.

The polling on the voter-ID issue in this state surprises me more than a little. I’d guess that the concern comes out of the incredibly close race between Al Franken and Norm Coleman in 2008’s Senate contest. Until then, the question of voter fraud through lax enforcement was academic in this state, which is used to clean elections and clean government. No one has proven any large-scale fraud in the election, but the simple fact that only a few hundred votes decided an election where almost 3 million people cast ballots demonstrates the need to ensure that clean elections continue in Minnesota.

At the very least, the polling shows that Emmer is right about one thing: it’s not a partisan issue. It may well help convince some Democrats to line up behind Emmer and push to get more rational control over the voting process in this state. And that may encourage other Republicans running in gubernatorial races to start polling on the issue in their states as well.