The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

November 2, 2012

Are Voter I.D. concerns overblown or real?

(Continued)

Election Day registration

So if the amendment passes and all voters are required to be subjected to similar checks on their identity and eligibility to vote, how could all that be done for people who register on Election Day?

It’s no small matter in Minnesota, where more than a half-million voters register at the polls for presidential elections and where the system has consistently made the state one of the national leaders in voter turn-out.

A variety of options are now open to those Election Day registrants to provide evidence they live in the precinct, including utility bills, pay stubs or the willingness of a registered voter to vouch for them. Voters abusing the system risk a felony prosecution, and their eligibility is checked after the election (although there’s no way to un-count the ballot they cast if they’re caught after the fact).

If lawmakers want to improve the system, they should do it by changing state law — not by amending the constitution, according to Penny, who believes the essence of Election Day registering is worth preserving.

“I’ve always been proud of Minnesota’s tradition of high voter participation,” Penny said. “And I really believe that we need to maintain that tradition.”

Cornish believes most people could still register on Election Day and not have their ballot put in the “provisional ballot” pile so long as they make sure they have a valid photo ID with a current address. Vouching would no longer be allowed, but the background checks involved in providing a Minnesotan with a photo ID would mirror many of the checks done for voters who pre-register, Cornish said.

But what about people who have a photo ID with an outdated address and are attempting to register on Election Day? Supporters say Minnesota has options for preserving Election Day registration even if the amendment passes, and the Legislature could decide next year which option to go with.

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