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Stop government waste- vote "No" on voter ID

Wed, Aug 15th, 2012
Posted in All Commentary

This November when you go to the polls unencumbered by a required “government issued photo ID”, vote “NO” to save our state and local governments from spending more on unnecessary rules and regulations. It has been estimated that the requirement of a government issued voter ID initially will cost more than $8 million, some believe it will be much more.

Who will foot the bill? Will the state pay or pass it down to local governments? Where will the millions needed for the initial costs and the ongoing increased administrative costs, that will add to local government budgets for every future election, come from? The dollars will come from all of us. One way or another we will all pay the bill and for what? It seems to me that the approval of the amendment will only serve to make voting more difficult and more expensive.

The photo ID is to paid for by the state, supposedly free to all eligible voters; not entirely true. It has been estimated that about 11 percent of eligible voters in the state do not have a photo ID that would satisfy requirements. Each voter needing the required ID will be responsible for obtaining their birth certificate, not free. Some will not take the time and effort, especially the elderly in nursing homes. Many students, elderly, soldiers and homeless will be disenfranchised as a result of this unnecessary amendment.

This constitutional amendment requiring everyone voting in future elections to have this photo ID is a “solution in search of a problem.” The reason the state legislature gives for needing the photo ID is to reduce voter fraud, which is rare. There is very little evidence of prevalent voter fraud, certainly not enough to justify the financial outlay and the additional regulation on our freedom to vote. Voter fraud essentially has not been documented in the state.

The Greater Minnesota Advisory Panel (GMAP) is especially concerned about what this amendment could mean for future elections in rural areas. What will be “substantially equivalent” for voters who participate by mail or absentee ballots?

If the voter ID amendment is adopted, voters will have to present a proper government issued photo ID in order to receive a ballot. This ID will need to reflect their current place of residence. Without the proper ID a voter will receive a “provisional ballot.” In order for the provisional ballot to be counted, the voter will have to present the proper government ID after the election at their county election office, which may be at a much greater distance than their polling location. Also, people voting with provisional ballots will loose the ability to keep their vote secret, as their name will be attached to the ballot.

Of course, many questions of what will be required and how it will work are yet to be decided by the legislature. The Minnesota legislature has yet to pass enabling legislation, but they intend to do so if the amendment is adopted. So if you vote in favor of the amendment, you will not be sure exactly what you are approving. You will essentially be voting to approve important details, yet to be determined.

Under current law, Minnesotans can update registration information on Election Day. There are several ways a voter can prove residency. If this amendment is adopted, it will serve to eliminate same day registration. It is estimated that up to 20 percent of voters utilize same day registration.

Voter fraud is a felony. About three-quarters of the investigations into voter fraud in Minnesota have involved convicted felons. Convicted felons are not allowed to vote in Minnesota until their sentence has been completed including parole or probation. At any rate the number of investigations across the state for voter fraud have been minuscule. Each act of voter fraud, a felony, could be punished by up to 5 years in jail, plus a $10,000 fine. Many citizens don’t bother to vote with the excuse that their single vote won’t make a difference. Why would anyone risk the possible jail term and fine for a single vote?

The requirement of a government issued photo ID may reduce any fraud by the “impersonation of another.” However, this kind of fraud is extremely rare, very very rare. There are multiple checks already built into the state’s voting system.

Our vote is a privilege and is of utmost importance as a citizen under a democratic form of government. Our country already suffers from voter apathy. The voting process should encourage participation by all eligible voters and limit as much as possible any barriers.

The US Constitution left voting qualifications up to the individual states. However, several amendments to the US Constitution have extended voting rights to more citizens. Amendment 14 in 1868 includes “all persons born or naturalized” as citizens of the US. Amendment 15 in 1870 takes away limitations based on “race, color, or previous servitude.” Amendment 19 in 1920 took away any limitation “on account of sex.” Amendment 24 in 1964 took away limitations “by reason of failure to pay any poll tax or other tax.” Amendment 26 in 1971 extended the age lower to those 18 or older. All these amendments spell out ways in which the “right to vote” can not be limited. They encourage greater participation.

The requirement for government issued photo IDs and other rules yet to be determined will increase regulation, drive up election costs, reduce voter participation, and increase government waste while not doing much of anything to prevent voter fraud any better than the current system.

We have plenty of issues in our state that need fixing, this isn’t one of them. Why fix what isn’t broken? There is very little concrete evidence of voter fraud in Minnesota. This proposed constitutional amendment is motivated by politics, rather than what is in the best interest of the state and its citizens.

Vote “No” to the Voter ID amendment and stop this government waste of our tax dollars.

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