Commentary: Maintain high voter Minnesota turnoutWhile League of Women Voters Red Wing applauds the recent vigorous discussion on voting, we strive to maintain Minnesota’s record of high voter participation.
By: Heidi Jones, Lois Burnes and Linda Thielbar, The Republican Eagle
While League of Women Voters Red Wing applauds the recent vigorous discussion on voting, we strive to maintain Minnesota’s record of high voter participation. An amendment in the Legislature calls for new, unspecified photo ID requirements at the polls.
One of the possible unintended consequences of the proposed amendment would be creating difficulties for the approximately 11 percent of the people who do not have a government-issued photo ID.
Citizens need to closely examine the potential effects on our voting rights. League of Women Voters United States wants to “protect the right of all citizens to vote … .”
Under the election law bill passed recently in the Minnesota House and Senate, a photo ID amendment to our state Constitution will be on the November ballot this fall. This bill leaves many issues open to interpretation and implementation as it is unclear what kinds of government-issued IDs would be acceptable in order to register to vote.
The amendment’s effect on Election Day registration, absentee voting and mail-in balloting requires clarification. In the presidential election in 2008, 78.42 percent of all eligible Minnesotans voted. Election Day registration allowed 542,257 citizens to vote. That makes up over 18 percent of the total votes cast that day.
This measure is purported to address a voter fraud problem. In Minnesota we have recently experienced two high-profile recounts, one in a U.S. Senate race and one in a governor’s race. Under that level of scrutiny, no widespread fraud has been found.
In Wisconsin, where they already have a similar voter photo ID law, the cost could run up to $6 million to address a voter impersonation rate of 0.00003 percent. If the University of Wisconsin system were to retool its student ID program to meet the new requirements of their photo ID law, it could cost $1.1 million. With Minnesota still recovering slowly from the recent economic downturn, is it necessary to spend this money on such an insignificant problem?
LWV Red Wing wants to remind citizens of the many safeguards already in place through the Secretary of State’s Office to ensure election integrity. Every registrant signs an oath swearing they are an eligible voter, also acknowledging that it is a felony to lie in this matter.
The Statewide Voter Registration System is a central database where each voter has only one record. Registration information is verified through Driver and Vehicle Services or the Social Security Administration databases. Then, once voter registrations are entered into the system, an unforwardable Postal Verification Card is sent to the voter’s address.
Database maintenance includes removal of voters who have not voted in four years, removal of deceased voters upon notification from the Minnesota Department of Health or Social Security, removal of felons from the comparison of records from the Department of Corrections, screening through Driver and Vehicle Services for noncitizens here on a temporary basis, and updating the records of voters who have moved based on the National Change of Address data from the Postal Service.
There are additional safeguards employed on Election Day such as election judge staffing representing both major parties and the counting of ballots once the polls have closed to ensure that number tallies with the ballot receipts given out. All the previously listed safeguards are again applied to Election Day registrants’ records after the election for verification.
The proposed bill language is as follows:
A voter “shall present government-issued photographic identification as prescribed by law, or who, when not voting in person, shall provide government-issued proof of identity as prescribed by law… , The state must make photographic identification available to eligible individuals at no charge as prescribed by law.”
Think about how many nursing home residents who no longer drive but still vote may be affected.
How about your college-age daughter who never got a driver’s license? Under some photo ID laws in other states, a student ID is not considered a valid, government-issued photo ID.
Your neighbor with a disability who can’t drive?
Your son in the military? Again, a military ID has not always been sufficient nor has a passport in some states.
In our mobile society it is not uncommon to move just prior to Election Day. You may not have a photo ID with your current address on it.
You may not be able to vote under these circumstances if the proposed amendment passes. Reread the bill language: “[G]overnment-issued photographic identification as prescribed by law…” has yet to be defined by lawmakers. In effect, citizens will be asked to vote on a constitutional amendment without knowing its full meaning as the details have not even been worked out by the legislature.
League of Women Voters Minnesota sums up the issue this way:
“Voting is a constitutional right. It cannot be compared to a voluntary, private commercial transaction like writing a check or renting a movie. In this case, the burden of proof should be on the government to show it is absolutely necessary to expect registered voters to meet additional requirements before casting their vote. That burden has not been met in the case of the photo ID.”
Make democracy work: vote “no” to any amendment that creates barriers for you, your family members, and your neighbors to exercise your constitutional right to vote.