Voter ID amendment raises questions

Lesley Toth

While ensuring elections are as accurate and legitimate as possible is something we can all agree on, proposals such as the Voter ID amendment do not enjoy such widespread support.

The proposed amendment is way too vague and lacks many important details.

The question that will appear on the Nov. 6 ballot states: “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?”

First, what is “valid photo identification?” Would my driver’s license suffice, or could a U.S. passport or military ID be valid, even though they do not show a voter’s address? Does it have to be a government issued ID or can my press pass or old college ID be used?

What is the process if the  ID is lost or stolen before Election Day and the new one hasn’t arrived in the mail yet? And for early November babies like myself, what happens if I’m still waiting for my new form of ID? (As the question states, it must be a valid ID, so my expired driver’s license wouldn’t fly).

How will college students, whose driver’s licenses probably still contain their parents’ address, vote at their campus, which could be hundreds of miles and hours away from home?

What about people who recently moved from another state and do not have a Minnesota license yet? People are eligible to vote after 20 days but are not required to update their license for 60 days and it can take between three to six weeks for the DMV to send the new card.

Who is eligible for those “free” IDs? Who will pay for them (after all, they aren’t really free)? Where will those funds come from?   What is the appeals process if an election official decides that your photo ID is unacceptable? Will the validity of an identification be left to the discretion of election judges, or will some sort of card reading machines be used? How will we pay for that added expense?

How will same-day voter registration (a concept that has long been lauded as one of the reason’s Minnesota has such a high voter turnout) be impacted by this amendment? How will absentee ballots, used most often by our most vulnerable citizens and our brave men and women in the military, be affected?

I realize proponents of the Voter ID amendment claim these answers and more will be answered after it passes. “Don’t worry, we’ll hammer out the details later,” they say (the equivalent of a politician refusing to answer any platform questions until after he or she is elected). Forgive me if I doubt the ability of the Minnesota Legislature to come together and make any kind of decision with this much of an impact when simple budget problems caused them to shutdown state government.

Voter fraud is a serious matter. But the most common form is those with felony convictions voting prior to being released from all stipulations under their probationary period. Driver’s licenses do not indicate felony status. Voter ID supporters also want to prevent illegal immigrants and other non-citizens from voting. But driver’s licenses do not indicate citizenship status, either. (And you do not need to be an American citizen to receive a Minnesota driver’s license.) So unless those photo ID checks come with full and complete background checks as well, I fail to see how the proposed requirement will prevent voter fraud.

It would, however, prevent the fictional case of “dead people voting” (a tired claim used by the most ardent supporters that teams of Twin Cities lawyers and millions of dollars couldn’t find a single case of during the latest two high-profile recounts).

With the potential to block the most fundamental right of democratic citizens, and the zero chance of preventing any real fraud, Minnesotans should send a clear message to the Legislature: unlike some politicians, we like to know what it is we’re voting for — before we vote for it.