The Free Press, Mankato, MN

October 4, 2012

Our View: Take another look at Voter ID


The Free Press

— Minnesota would create an extreme voting restriction for seniors, lock in outdated technology and cause higher local taxes for everyone if the Voter ID Amendment passes.

There’s been a good amount of new information on problems with the proposed Voter ID amendment and some misconceptions that need clearing up.

While supporters will say that more than a dozen others states have Voter ID laws, they fail to mention that only one other state — Mississippi — has made it a constitutional amendment. And that amendment offers flexibility absent in the Minnesota Amendment.

Voter ID laws have been turned back by courts in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Missouri and Texas.

Many Minnesota voters are seeing flaws in the amendment as polls have decidedly been moving in favor of rejection. The latest Minnesota Poll by the Star Tribune shows barely a majority of those polled — 52 percent — still support the amendment. A little more than a year ago, support was about 80 percent. The latest poll also shows 42 percent oppose the amendment.

That may be in part because a large tri-partisan coalition has recommended against voting for the amendment. A few months ago, former Republican Gov. Arne Carlson, former Democratic Vice President Walter Mondale and former Independence Party candidate for governor Tim Penny held a press conference urging rejection of the amendment.

Groups like AARP, League of Women Voters and others advise voters to reject the amendment. Their strongest argument is that if people feel there are voting fraud problems, those problems should be addressed in legislation, not a constitutional amendment. The only reason Minnesota is voting on a constitutional amendment is because the Republican Legislature did not provide a bipartisan Voter ID law to Gov. Mark Dayton.

Dayton had urged bipartisan legislation just as his predecessor, Gov. Tim Pawlenty had urged bipartisan voter verification and reform legislation. Both vetoed proposals on election reform because they were not bipartisan.

If the constitutional amendment is passed it will lock in the use of a photo ID even  if new technology a few years from now allows for better verification procedures.

The amendment also provides few details on how the law would be implemented. That would be left to the Legislature, but again, some things could not be modified.

As written, the amendment requires a “valid photo identification.” That means those who don’t have the correct address, or have a driver’s license that has expired (like many elderly in nursing homes), will not be able to vote in the usual manner.

They will be able to vote by provisional ballot, which would require them to within a undefined period of time after the election not only hunt down their birth certificate and for women, their marriage license also, but then go back to essentially vote again. So we’ve made one trip to go vote into three of four trips. That’s likely to discourage voting altogether.

The consequences of passing the Voter ID as a constitutional amendment will severely restrict and make more difficult the long-standing constitutional right to vote.

Seniors and those in nursing homes will have to scramble to get a new driver’s license or ID. Some may not have a driver’s license or a birth certificate, especially if they were born at home. Seniors waiting to move into assisted living (an estimated 10,000 statewide) will be hurried to get a new license that matches their new address if they move in anywhere near an election day.

The new requirement would impact up to 20 percent of the voters. That’s how many voted via same-day registration in the last presidential election.

A cross check of databases by the state showed 215,000 voters statewide don’t have a valid ID from the Department of Motor Vehicles or one with the correct address. Some 65,000 of those people are over 55.

Mail balloting would go by the wayside. Many rural areas of the state use mail ballots including Blue Earth County. A study on Kittson County showed the cost from converting back from mail to in person balloting would cost $250 per voter.

It’s important to remember that a vote against the Voter ID amendment is not a vote against better verification procedures. Those changes can be handled in bipartisan election legislation. That’s the way Minnesota should go in resolving voting verification improvements. We shouldn’t restrict rights of something that is essential to American Democracy.