In the next couple of week we'll be hearing from Mass Communication students from Valica Boudry's News Reporting Class. This morning we had updates and information on the proposed constitutionals amendments that you'll see on your ballots as well as Bemidji city recall amendment. Here's info on the Voter ID amendment.
Minnesota’s Voter ID Question
By Arne Mostad-Jensen
On Nov. 6 Minnesotans will be asked to vote “Yes” or “No” on the question “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?” The wording of the amendment itself, included at the end of this article, contains further provisions not indicated in the ballot question.
Opponents of the amendment claim that voter fraud, already against the law in Minnesota, is far too infrequent to warrant a constitutional amendment and suggest that it could actually end up disenfranchising legal voters. Amendment supporters argue that even a few fraudulent votes could decide a close election at any level of government and claim that a voter ID requirement would help to prevent this.
A comprehensive database of voter fraud cases nationwide since 2000 compiled by News21, a cornerstone program of the Carnegie-Knight Initiative on the Future of Journalism Education, reveals only 10 cases of voter impersonation fraud—the type of fraud that voter ID is designed to prevent—nationally in that period. They note that the cases of voter fraud from the 2008 election cited by amendment supporters involved illegally voting felons who would not have been prevented from voting by an ID requirement.
Supporters of the amendment also cite anecdotal evidence to suggest that many cases of voter fraud go unreported and claim that a voter ID requirement would not only help prevent actual fraud but would reduce the public’s perception that the election system is susceptible to fraud.
Opponents argue that expenses associated with obtaining an ID, such as travel costs and having to pay for a birth certificate to establish identity, would inhibit limited-income citizens from voting. They argue that the ID requirement would essentially amount to a poll tax, which is prohibited by the Twenty-fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution.
Citizens for Election Integrity Minnesota, which opposes the amendment, estimates that implementing the amendment would collectively cost individuals without IDs between $16 million and $72 million and would cost state and local governments between $36 million and $78 million. Center of the American Experiment, which supports the amendment, estimates that providing free voter IDs for the first general election after its implementation would cost the state as little as $2.9 million and would decline in cost for subsequent elections.
Opponents further argue that the amendment is unclear regarding what would constitute “valid government-issued photo identification.” They say the amendment does not specify whether military IDs, tribal IDs or college IDs would be accepted as valid forms of identification. Amendment supporters claim that previously existing laws make it impossible to disenfranchise military or Native American voters but say that even state-college-issued IDs might not be accepted.
Amendment supporters say that voters without IDs would still be able to fill out a provisional ballot on Election Day and provide a valid ID afterwards to ensure that their vote would be counted. Opponents say the amendment is unclear on how exactly this would work and suggest it would create a situation ripe for litigation.
Amendment opponents also warn that the amendment is unclear regarding what would constitute “substantially equivalent identity and eligibility verification” for absentee voters. Amendment supporters suggest that absentee voters would simply have to include their ID number on their absentee ballot signature envelope and possibly show their ID to a witness. Opponents say this would not constitute substantially equivalent identity and eligibility verification and would unfairly establish two sets of voting standards.
Finally, opponents note that if the amendment is passed the specifics of how it would be implemented would still have to be finalized by Minnesota’s next legislature, which would likely interpret its requirements quite differently depending on which party emerges as dominant after the election, and that they could end up being decided in the courts.
The proposed amendment outlines the voter ID requirements that it would enact as follows:
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.
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.