GUEST OPINION: 'No' to VoterID by Kathy Bonnifield and Carolyn Jackson
On May 26, 2011, Governor Dayton vetoed a bill that would have required Minnesota voters to present only one of three IDs to vote — a valid State driver’s license, a valid State ID card, or a Minnesota Voter ID. Had this passed other IDs — such as a student ID, Military ID, or U.S. passport — would not be considered appropriate identification to vote. The impact of this legislation would have been felt by a number of populations — including many of the people who register to vote on Election Day.
Requiring a current photo ID to vote only addresses voter impersonation. One side claims that voter impersonation does not occur while the other side says that it might happen but goes undetected. But, could massive voter impersonation really go undetected? Consider the number of people the impersonator would have to pass — from election judges and the party challengers at the precinct (whom they would need to assume doesn’t know who they are impersonating) to the person they are impersonating (how sure are they that the person standing behind them is not the individual or a friend of the individual)?
In Minnesota not one voter has stepped forward to say that someone impersonated them.
Requiring a voter photo ID creates a barrier to vote. This is especially true for people who might have an ID but not the correct ID. If the proposal had become law, over 144,000 eligible voters would have immediately had a barrier to the ballot box because they do not have a current Minnesota driver’s license or Minnesota ID card. Anytime a voter moves, their ID would no longer be valid. Consider college students — when looking at four precincts with student housing in Northfield, we can see that over 1,300 people registered to vote on Election Day in both 2010 and 2008. In fact, many students who chose to vote at their college address would have to have one ID to vote in the August primary and another ID to vote in the November general.
Finally, if Minnesota were to follow Wisconsin’s example, many absentee voters and mail-in voters would need to find a photocopier so they can send a copy of their valid ID along with their ballot documents. (In 2010, over 45,000 Minnesotans in rural areas were registered as mail-in voters.)
Some argue that no one has lost their right to vote because of a voter ID. Consider Sister Julie McGuire, who was a poll worker in Indiana. She had to turn away her friends — elderly nuns living in a retirement facility. The nuns were registered to vote but didn’t have the right government-issued ID. Sister Julie McGuire could identify them. But that was not good enough — they needed a specific type of identification. She and the nuns would have broken the law if they voted. The same would hold true here — an election judge would have to turn away people they personally know if they did not have the right ID.
State Costs: Voter IDs, Voter Education.
The most obvious cost of a voter ID is the requirement to provide a free voter ID to anyone who does not have one. But, there are hidden costs including voter education. In Georgia, a federal court delayed implementation of voter ID until tens of millions of dollars were spent on voter education. Currently, Tennessee has a publicity campaign underway and is extending the hours of driver's service centers to accommodate its voter ID requirement. In addition to education and drivers service center costs, small Minnesota precincts that currently use mail in voting will have to begin again to pay for in-person voting. This new cost comes in a time when those same communities are considering whether to pay for police and fire services.
Local Costs: Provisional Ballots and Election Judges
Provisional ballots were created to ensure that voters were not erroneously dropped from voter rosters. Election Day registration provides greater protection to voters than provisional ballots. But because a voter photo ID requirement would contract voting rights, Minnesota would have to implement a provisional ballot system. Costs span from printing of the provisional ballot envelope as well as additional election judges on Election Day as well as provisional ballot judges in each county after Election Day.
In fact, in Madison, Wisconsin they recently conducted “mock” elections to determine the needs of precincts on Election Day due to their new voter ID requirement. They determined that they needed to double the number of election judges.
Focus should be on increasing voter turnout. Not on unneeded, costly barriers.
Minnesota prides itself with the highest levels of voter turnout in the country, but in 2010, over 1.5 million eligible voters did not vote. Instead of focusing on the creation of costly barriers, we should be focusing on increasing voter turnout.
Platform: no to voter ID
The Independence Party should support reform that gives strength, not limits, to the right to vote. Vote to oppose voter ID at the January platform convention.