Voter ID is needed

To the Editor:

Interestingly the Voter ID debate seems to be split down party lines. One party sees it as a common sense approach to addressing a problem which threatens the integrity of the centerpiece of our representative form of government. The other sees it as a major threat worth throwing considerable resources into the fight against it – resources much of which not surprisingly are coming from our taxes (Sec. of State Mark Ritchie is pretty actively engaged in a propaganda campaign). A critical thinker would have to ask, what are they afraid of?

The main argument now is that it is just unnecessary. We don’t need to do anything to protect the integrity of our election process, many going so far as to say there aren’t any cases of voter fraud in Minnesota. The second argument is that it will affect voter turnout, denying people their right to vote (by intimidation). The third is that it will simply cost too much. A few facts might be out of order from their perspective, but I will just throw them out there for independent minded thinkers to chew on.

First, there were actually thousands of cases of voter fraud reported and investigated in Minnesota (over 2000 in 2010 election). However under Minnesota law the prosecutor has to be able to prove that the accused knew they were voting illegally – this is tantamount to requiring anyone caught committing a crime to plead guilty in order to be convicted. Of course the accused will always plead ignorance. As a result there have only been about 113 convictions (as of August 2011). This reportedly represents the highest number in 75 years. Now admittedly this is a pretty insignificant number, but that may well be precisely why we need the voter ID requirement – how was anyone supposed to get caught voting fraudulently without it, especially with a Secretary of State responsible for enforcing the laws we have, who is so invested in maintaining the status quo?

Second fact: Indiana and Georgia have already enacted strict photo ID laws between the 2004 and 2008 presidential elections, and in both states, voter turnout went up — 54.8 percent to 59.1 percent in Indiana, and 56.2 percent to 62.5 percent in Georgia, according to the United States Elections Project at George Mason University. Where is the evidence that voter ID suppresses turnout? Who of the less than 3 percent of the population, who don’t already have such ID and really want to vote, will forgo the free ID offered and decide not to vote?

Third fact: in Georgia the reported cost of implementing voter ID was only about $1.6 million over five years – that’s about $320,000 per year. Compare that to the estimates coming from the opponents of between $33 million and $67 million (thought certainly a Democrat administration could run it up by orders of magnitude). Out of a budget of over $35 billion (that’s $35,000,000,000.00), $320,000, or even $1 million (3/1000 of a percent) might not be too much to pay for taking a step toward enhanced election integrity.

Seriously folks, how many people do you know who don’t have some kind of picture ID, who would even want to vote. According to the secretary of state’s office, there are about 144,000 voting-age Minnesotans who lack ID. That would be about 3.5 percent of our state’s voter age population. Anyone who would use this requirement as an excuse not to vote, can’t be too interested in voting anyway (which is usually about 22 percent of eligible voters anyway – a lot more than 3.5 percent). Granted it probably won’t make a big difference in Mille Lacs county (hopefully), but it seems that two counties in our state determine the outcome of close elections – which just happen to go Democrat. Might election integrity be more of an issue in those more densely populated areas, which the Democrats rely on for their edge, to counter the rural vote?

People should also know the tactics being used by this Secretary of State and the opponent of this amendment. As a frequent volunteer election judge, I was required to attend a training. This year as a part of my training I was regaled by the official trainer with a speech overtly opposing this voter ID amendment – a mini political campaign under the guise of election judge training. Tax payer dollars are being spent to defeat this amendment. If the issues involved don’t concern you, the tactics being used probably should.

I have asked before and will ask again – why bother with even the expense of election judges? Judges have very little criteria to determine if a voter is committing voter fraud (hence almost no convictions) – it is almost pointless. So if their arguments are correct and truthful, and voter fraud is not an issue, and we shouldn’t spend money on trying to prevent it, then shouldn’t we just eliminate this phony facade of fair elections and eliminate the cost of election judges? Guess which party would come out ahead with that plan.

One might really ask – what is the motive behind the two opposing positions on this issue. One side wants increased integrity in elections – that’s all. Is the other side really so worried about a possible 3.5 percent of unlikely voters, and less than .003 percent of our state budget? It seems to me we have a close call here between common sense, and incredible gullibility – guess which is which.


Mike Byrd