Fewer voters, more cost, more errors, and almost a guaranteed lawsuit –those could be the results if a Republican backed “voter photo ID” proposal becomes law in Minnesota, according to testimony before the House Local Government and Elections Committee.
The initial price tag on implementing the proposed law was $36 Million, prompting Representative Ken Kelash (DFL-Minneapolis) to ask what programs were going to be cut to pay for that. Sponsor of the bill, Representative Warren Limmer (R -Maple Grove) didn’t answer that question directly, but said that the proposal had been revised so it would cost less. The pricetag is still unknown until a new fiscal analysis is completed.
Scaling back the voter photo ID bill means that only polling places that serve large numbers of people will have the electronic equipment needed to implement the law. Representative Limmer explained that would be the larger communities in Minnesota. Smaller (presumably rural) communities would still use the current paper system. (video) That led Representative Kelash to ask if that really accomplished anything since the law would be implemented unequally. Representative Limmer replied that the law is only “an accounting system” and the people who were eligible to vote could still vote.
It should be noted that many of the populations that are typically underrepresented in the general voting population such as minorities tend to be clustered in urban areas, making them proportionally more subject to this law than other groups.
Legal counsel for the Minnesota American Civil Liberties Union, Teresa Nelson, testified that while voter photo ID would not be a burden for most Minnesotans, it would be a barrier for some. (video) She said that no other constitutional right has more amendments protecting it than the right to vote. That right can not be denied because of a process. Voter Photo ID laws in Indiana have been upheld as constitutional, but Indiana does not have as many state constitutional protections on the right to vote as Minnesota and the proposed Minnesota voter photo ID would be found unconstitutional.
Edina City Clerk Debra Mangen testifed before the Senate Local Government and elections Committee. (video) She says the proposed law requiring a photo ID to vote would lead to a system that is more expensive and more error-prone. The bill calls for “provisional ballots” when people vote without a photo ID. Mangen, who is also with the League of Minnesota Cities, says provisional ballots would mean a third type of ballot that would have to be tracked separately. Regular ballots and absentee ballots are the other two types.
Ben Hellerstein is a student at Carlton College in Northfield and is a member of the Minnesota Public Interest Research Group (MPIRG). He says one of the reasons he came to Minnesota is because it was a welcoming and friendly place, and nothing captures that like Minnesota’s open voter registration laws. Other states, he says, make it difficult for people to vote. Minnesota has the highest youth voter turnout rate in the nation and the state should be careful about doing anything that would suppress that.