Voter ID Amendment a question of fraud, accessPublished 11:39am Friday, November 2, 2012
Minnesotans are being asked to use their vote to determine how they will vote in the future.
The voter ID amendment, coming up on the Nov. 6 ballot, has the state of Minnesota divided. The proposed amendment pushes for stricter requirement of showing a government-issued photo ID. Some say that would limit access to voting and have high costs.
For many, it comes down to voter fraud. Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen says voting yes is a given.
“Voter ID issues have tainted elections,” said Ingebrigtsen. “A local business owner phrased it well — I have to show ID to sell scrap metal or cash a check, why wouldn’t I have to show ID to vote?”
Charles Mills, a former GOP deputy chair from Austin, MN, said 200 felons have been convicted of voter fraud since the 2008 Presidential election.
Of the 22,000 or so same-day voter registrations at the 2008 election, Mills said, more than 6,400 voter verification cards were returned because the address was unknown. These sites ended up being parks, freeways, vacant lots and fast food restaurants, he said. Additionally, about 2 million registered voters in the nation are actually dead, and others fall under names like “Osama BinLaden” and “Mickey Mouse.”
“We need ID for pretty much everywhere you go in our society,” said Rep. Bud Nornes. “President Obama had to provide photo ID when he voted in Chicago.”
Nornes points out just a small amount of voter fraud could swing an election.
“An election in St. Cloud two years ago was won by ten votes,” said Nornes. “The Franken race was very close. It is possible voter fraud could swing a race under our current system.”
But the chairman of the Democratic Farmer Labor party chair for Otter Tail County, Michael Windley, disagrees, saying there are checks and balances already in place to minimize voter fraud.
“My concern is that the details are not fully worked out or the costs,” said Windley. “The amendment would put many legal voters at a disadvantage.”
Windley sites absentee voters casting their ballots from abroad, bedridden seniors, college students who are moving around a lot and Minnesotans serving abroad in the military as specific groups that would be affected. Eligible voters who don’t have the right form of “valid government-issued” photo identification might have to drive as far as 80 miles to obtain it — a daunting task for a senior citizen who doesn’t drive and who lives in a nursing home on a fixed income.
While military ID would be acceptable under the new system, the ID would need to be verified.
“How would you, in Bagdad, go out and find a notary public?” Said MN Secretary of State Mark Ritchie. “How much would that cost?”
Windley also adds, “You would have to convince me there is voter fraud.”
Joan Growe, Minnesota Secretary of State from 1975 to 1999, is fed up with false allegations regarding election fraud. In Growe’s opinion, having voters present photo identification will not itself prevent ex-felons or other illegal voters from registering to vote and then casting ballots.
“As someone who spent decades in charge of Minnesota’s election system, I know that we must ensure that only legal votes are counted,” Growe said. “But effectively disqualifying legal voters would be even more damaging to the integrity of our election.”
Governor Mark Dayton advocates sending the issue back to the Legislature for further work. In an opinion piece published in the MN Star Tribune, Dayton said:
“Suppose I had gone to the Minnesota Legislature last year and said, ‘I have a complicated new program that could massively disrupt voting procedures throughout our entire state. I haven’t yet figured out the details, and I have no idea of what it will cost. Maybe $100 million, or so. I have no evidence that it’s needed, but I know it is. Just trust me and approve it.”
The cost of enforcing the voter ID amendment would depend on specifics that would not be determined until after it passes.
“You have a wide range of estimates,” said Secretary of State Ritchie. Proponents of the amendment estimate the new system could cost $40 million to introduce, while opponents, academic institutions and associations of counties, cities and townships place the figure closer to $60 million, he said.
More specific estimates have been done by most local officials, including in Otter Tail County. According to the Windley, implementation costs are estimated at $2,000 for a town of 500, plus two additional precinct staff would be needed. This does not include the cost of new electronic voting machines which could cost $56,800 for the cheaper model or $140,900 for the more expensive model — which could mean anywhere from about $4.60 to $8.80 per local voter.
Windley adds that there is a personal cost for anyone that would need to obtain a state issued photo ID. Identification card fees are $17.25 for people under 65, $11 for those 65 and over, plus a $12.75 replacement fee if your card is ever lost or stolen. Cards must be renewed every four years at the same rate.
Mail-in ballots used by many small towns would be subject to the same identity checks, meaning residents living in areas without polling places would need to travel to the county auditor’s office to ensure their vote was counted. More than 500 townships use all mail-in voting, Ritchie said.
Rep. Tony Cornish said many of these issues have already been worked out.
“If the elderly don’t have a photo ID, the amendment provides for free state ID cards,” said Cornish. “If they have trouble finding their birth certificate, the state already has a waiver process. If they vote by mail or absentee, they’ll be able to use the last four digits of their Social Security number.”
The amendment could cause some delays in voting results, Windley said. If a voter moves and doesn’t have photo ID finalized, his or her vote could be held as provisional. This could cause delays in determining the winner of a close election.
“We’re looking at a minimum of a 10-day delay to find out what the results are while they process the provisional votes,” Windley said.
While other states have already adopted voter ID restrictions, they include automatic and universal exemptions for many types of voters. While these were brought up in the Legislature, they were all rejected.
For Ingbretson, the amendment would benefit the state by strengthening its voting system.
“If we want democracy to prevail we have to have legitimate elections,” he said.