ACLU Speaks Out Against Proposed MN Voter ID Law

2011 Legislative Session

2011 Legislative SessionIn response to legislation sponsored by Minnesota Republicans that would mandate the use of Voter IDs during elections, the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota has jumped into action and delivered a letter to members of the media, voicing its opposition. The State House discussed the proposed legislation today, and will continue to do so next week before taking a vote.

Here are the highlights of the ACLU’s opposition:

Voting is not a privilege, it is a constitutional right.

• The right to vote is protected by more constitutional amendments — the First, Fourteenth, Fifteenth, Nineteenth, and Twenty-Sixth — than any right we enjoy as Americans.

• The fundamental constitutional right to vote is also protected by the Minnesota Constitution as well as declarations by the U.S. and Minnesota Supreme Courts that the right to vote is fundamental because it preserves all other political rights.

• A fundamental constitutional right is a right that cannot be taken away by a vote of the majority. This is well established and undisputed constitutional law.

• The voter ID bills before the committee today appear to violate this fundamental right, under the Federal Constitution, under the State Constitution, and under Minnesota election statutes.

The microscopic scrutiny of two election recounts in 2008 and 2010 have not led to a single conviction for voter impersonation fraud — the only type of voter fraud that photo id requirements could possibly address. Our voter registration lists are by law updated monthly; automatically reflecting change of address and removal because of death. Minnesota has a proud history of clean elections and high voter turnout. Moreover, there were only 26 felon voting convictions out of 2.9 million voters — contrast that miniscule number with the thousands of voters who may be disenfranchised because of a new photo id requirement.

Voter identification requirements particularly affect Indian voters in two ways. First, the U.S. and Minnesota Constitutions guarantee the right of free exercise of religion, and along with other religions, many Indians have religious objections to identification cards bearing their photographs. The proposed voter identification bills appear to violate the free exercise of religion in Minnesota. … There was a time in Minnesota’s history when we denied Indians the right to vote unless they could prove that they “had adopted the habits and customs of civilization.” It would be shameful if we denied Indians the right to vote now because of their sincerely held religious beliefs.

Finally, Minnesota election laws apply to absentee voting. These bills do nothing to address how a photo ID requirement applies to absentee ballots. So, these bills would either violate existing law or create a two-class system of voting in Minnesota. Either way, the confusion they create begs for lawsuits.

The supporters of Jim Crow justified their voter suppression laws as “equal treatment of all our votes.” We urge you not to follow the rumors of blogs or the manufactured fear of fraud yet-to-come and vote NO on this voter suppression bill.”

Jacob Wheeler

In addition to shooting videos for The UpTake, Jacob Wheeler is a contributing editor at the progressive political magazine In These Times, publishes the Glen Arbor Sun in his native Michigan, and authored "Between Light and Shadow," a recent book about the Guatemalan adoption industry. Wheeler's stories have appeared in such magazines as the Utne Reader, Earth Island Journal, Rotarian and Teaching Tolerance magazine, and newspapers including the San Francisco Chronicle and Christian Science Monitor. He speaks fluent Spanish, German and Danish.

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