Voter ID on the ballotMinnesota voters will be faced with two questions in November that could result in amendments to the state constitution. One issue has to do with the definition of marriage — a topic that has been debated on the opinion page and in the On Faith column of the News-Chronicle over the past several weeks.
By: Tammy Francois, Lake County News Chronicle
Minnesota voters will be faced with two questions in November that could result in amendments to the state constitution. One issue has to do with the definition of marriage — a topic that has been debated on the opinion page and in the On Faith column of the News-Chronicle over the past several weeks.
The second question asks voters whether the constitution should be amended to require citizens to present valid photographic identification before being permitted to vote. In Lake County, voters are on both sides of the issue.
In 2011, the Republican-controlled Minnesota Legislature passed a photo ID bill, which was later vetoed by Gov. Mark Dayton. However, state voters can override a governor’s veto, and that’s what they’re being asked to do in the Nov. 6 referendum. Other than using his influence to persuade voters, the governor has no power to affect the outcome.
The question on the ballot will read: “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?”
As of Oct. 5-8, when Public Policy Polling surveyed 937 Minnesota voters, 51 percent said they support the proposed amendment and 43 percent said they opposed it. According to PPP, opposition to the amendment has grown 9 percentage points since June. The strongest opposition to the amendment is among Democrats — 71 percent of whom say they do not support the measure. Visit publicpolicypolling.com to view this poll and to learn more about PPP’s methodology.
Local supporters point to the 2008 U.S. Senate race between Al Franken and Norm Coleman as an example of why voter ID is necessary.
“In 2008 we had several hundred felons vote,” said Tim Jezierski, Republican basic political organizational unit chairman. “This is against the law and would have been caught with voter ID. And if you remember, Franken won by a couple of hundred votes. Stats show that felons tend to vote heavy Dem. That could have made a difference.”
The amendment is needed to prevent fraud, he said.
“When we don’t have an ID to check, if you have voted twice how do we track fraud? How many college students vote absentee at their home, then vote same-day register where they go to school?” Jezierski asked. “How many vote where they live one season and then vote again where they live the rest of the year? We have no way to track.”
Election officials disagree with this argument.
“Voter fraud in Minnesota is almost nonexistent,” said Steve McMahon, Lake County auditor for the past 22 years. In that time, “there have been no cases of voter fraud in Lake County.” McMahon’s office is responsible for oversight of elections and voter registration.
“Yes, in every election there are a handful of felons who vote illegally, almost universally because they had not been told that they could not,” Secretary of State Mark Ritchie said in a statement released by his office. “Following the 2008 election, about 100 have been charged or convicted (out of 2.9 million voters). This photo ID legislation will not prevent the only type of illegal voting of which there is any evidence.”
In Lake County, few felons have been found to have voted.
“We’ve had a couple of them,” said McMahon, mostly due to a lack of understanding on the part of the felon. A photo ID wouldn’t prevent that, he said, since photo IDs say nothing about whether someone is a convicted felon.
Opponents of the bill point to the cost of providing IDs to voters who don’t currently have one. Although figures on cost can only be estimated at this point, students in the Masters of Public Policy program at the Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota have come up with some preliminary figures.
“The Division of Vehicle Services provided a conservative estimate that 72,000 people would obtain the free identification, costing the state $1.108 million in the first biennium and $430,000 in the subsequent biennium,” said the summary written by Nicholas Anhut, Nina Huntington and Melissa Young. See the document in its entirety at conservancy.umn.edu.
But Jezierski said the costs can’t be accurately estimated because there has been no determination about what kind of ID will satisfy the requirement. He referred to other states that have passed voter ID legislation.
“In Kansas, nine forms (of photo ID) are acceptable, and this year only 32 free IDs were given out statewide,” Jezierski said. “How many people do you know that do not have an ID? Do you know any at all?”
Narabrook said that getting IDs may present hurdles for some Minnesota voters. He has been working on an initiative called the Minnesota Participation Project, examining the possible impact of the proposed amendment.
“If a resident of Silver Bay’s Veterans Home did not have an ID under this proposed amendment,” Narabrook said, “he would have to cast a provisional ballot and travel to Two Harbors within a specified period of time (likely within five days or so of the election) and present valid photo ID in person — otherwise, his provisional ballot would never be counted.”
Mary Kiffmeyer, R-Big Lake, one of the chief authors of the voter ID amendment, said that measures have already been discussed to address this issue.
“The honest truth is that for college students, nursing home residents, military members and others who rely on absentee or mail voting, that option will look nearly identical to the current absentee ballot. We already have a substantially equivalent eligibility process in place for absentee ballots,” she said in an opinion piece published in the Grand Forks Herald Sept. 8.
For Jezierski, however, the issue comes down to wanting accountability.
“When you look at how close some of our elections are, a few illegally cast votes can turn the whole election around. I’m not opposed to people voting early — but I have a problem with them voting often,” he quipped.
For more information about the voter ID amendment, North Shore Good Neighbors is sponsoring a presentation at the Two Harbors Community Center Tuesday, Oct. 23, at 7-8:30 p.m. Presenters will be Gay Trachsel and Sally Munger from the League of Women Voters.