A closer look at the voter ID amendment

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October 22, 2012 // UPDATED 5:48 pm - December 27, 2012
By: Sarah McKenzie
Sarah McKenzie

The second proposed constitutional amendment Minnesotans will see on the ballot Nov. 6 would mandate new photo ID requirements for voters.

The following question will appear on the ballot: “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?”

Supporters of the amendment argue it would improve the integrity of the state’s election system.

Opponents of the voter ID amendment, however, point out that there have been few reported cases of election fraud. They argue that the amendment will disenfranchise many eligible voters who don’t have a government-issued ID. 

The ballot measure comes as similar laws requiring voters to show IDs across the country are facing legal challenges. 

A judge in Pennsylvania issued a ruling Oct. 2 to delay implementation of the state’s law requiring voters to have photo IDs. 

Following the ruling Luchelle Stevens, campaign manager for Our Vote Our Future — the official statewide campaign working to defeat the proposed Minnesota amendment — issued the following statement: “Minnesota’s Voter Restriction Amendment is more restrictive than the Pennsylvania law blocked today. Pennsylvania exempts absentee voters who are serving in the military overseas, elderly or disabled. The amendment here in Minnesota as written does not.” 

The League of Women Voters Minnesota (LWVM) has posted three key arguments against the amendment on its website: 1) The photo ID requirements “create hurdles for otherwise eligible voters”; 2) the requirements “are not necessary for election integrity because no one in Minnesota has ever been convicted for voter impersonation”; and 3) the requirements “add more costs to our elections.”

In Indiana, a state of similar size to Minnesota, it cost $10 million for the state to provide IDs in the first three years of implementing a new ID law. 

A report issued by the Minneapolis City Clerk’s office earlier this year predicted it would cost nearly $4.9 million to implement the changes required by the amendment. 

The City Clerk’s report also raised concerns about the amount of time election officials would have to implement the changes required by the amendment if it’s adopted. As proposed, local governments would have to be ready by the November 2013 election.

“This creates a nearly untenable timeline for election officials — especially those with planned elections in 2013, like the City of Minneapolis,” the report notes.

The Secretary of State’s office estimates that there are about 215,000 registered voters in Minnesota without a valid state driver’s license or ID card. 

Those least likely to have valid government-issued IDs include senior citizens, minorities, voters earning less than $35,000 a year and people with disabilities. Many young people between the ages of 18 and 24 also lack IDs with their current addresses. 

In other states that have passed similar laws, many people have been exempted from the voter ID requirement — including members of the military, residents of nursing homes, disabled people and absentee voters, among others.