Minnesota Rep. Mike Benson and Sen. Carla Nelson talk to voters in Rochester following 2012 Legislative session. -photo by Jeremy Griffith
Minnesotans will soon have to choose whether or not to require photo ID at the polls. The state legislature placed a constitutional ballot amendment question on November’s ballot after Governor Mark Dayton vetoed a voter ID bill last year.
The amendment question is a yes or no question asking voters whether or not they want the constitution of Minnesota to require voters to present valid state photo ID when they vote. Proponents say the bill will cut down on willful voter fraud in the future, while opponents say it will disenfranchise certain voters who are unable to get photo ID, such as shut ins, nursing home residents, and overseas residents.
Recent polls indicate most Minnesotans favor a voter ID law.
Rep. Mike Benson, a primary architect of the bill, says it will empower voters because so much of what we do on a day to day basis requires an ID and points out that those seeking government services require a photo ID in any case.
“Voter fraud is so difficult to detect and it is cost prohibitive to prosecute,” said Benson. “It’s not a priority for local county attorneys with the other crimes they have to deal with. This measure will help to detect potential voter fraud before it happens.”
Rep. Mike Benson comments on Voter ID Constitutional Amendment Question. Video by Jeremy Griffith
Sen. Carla Nelson explained that voters who show up to the polls can still vote through a provisional ballot system. The bill will do away with vouching, but will not eliminate same day registration, she said.
“This bill, let’s be clear, will do away with the practice of vouching,” said Nelson. “It will not eliminate election day registration. And those who cannot afford photo ID, the government will provide one for them.”
Sen. Carla Nelson Comments on Voter ID Constitutional Amendment Question. Video by Jeremy Griffith
Dan McGraff, executive director of Minnesota Majority, had a lot of input into how the bill was presented to the legislature. His organization found irregularities after the heavily contested election of 2008. According to statistics he found from the State Secretary of State’s office, over 23,000 postal verification cards sent to verify the new same day voter registrations came back because they were unable to find a valid address or a person at the address that met with the description of the person registered. Since the 2008 election over 400 people have been identified as having voted illegally and 113 have been convicted, he said.
The 2008 election was the year when Al Franken-DFL narrowly defeated incumbent Republican Norm Coleman for the US Senate seat. The Minneapolis Star Tribune, with statistics from the Minnesota Canvassing Board, shows how close the election was before and after legal challenges and a six week recount process.
Opponents of the ballot question say that voter fraud is actually well below one percent of the 2.9 million who voted in the 2008 election, and that the amendment would further disenfranchise voters who would otherwise not be able to get a valid photo ID.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, there are currently over 30 states that have some kind of voter ID law on the books today.
You can hear debate for and against the proposed amendment at the Minnesota State Legislature’s website here.
The language of the final amendment questions can be seen here.