Minnesota’s League of Women Voters is calling a proposal to require a photo ID to vote “unnecessary, costly and harmful”.
League of Women Voters Policy Coordinator Sheri Knuth explained the reasoning for the League’s position to the House Transportation Committee today.
“Unnecessary because the only thing that a voter photo ID can prevent is voter impersonation. And there is no evidence of voter impersonation in Minnesota.
“Costly because both state and local governments and thus the taxpayers must incur costs for providing photo IDs, educating voters and election personnel on the new photo ID requirement and implementing a provisional ballot system — something that Minnesota has never had.
“And harmful because some voters do not have appropriate IDs and would face obstacles which are unsurmountable in some cases to obtaining IDs and getting to an election office to verify provisional ballots.
“A photo ID requirement would disenfranchise some of the very people who must work the hardest of all to vote.”
Everybody may have to pay extra to get an ID … not just new voters.
The state of Minnesota estimates 144,000 people in MInnesota who are eligible to vote do not have a valid drivers license, permit or ID card. This number includes a disproportionate number of elderly, disabled, and homeless people— 10% who are veterans. Younger people would also have problem since they tend to move more often and would not have a drivers license bearing their current address as the proposed law would require.
Knuth also said that the proposed laws as written would require even people who are renewing their drivers license to provide documentation such as a birth certificate, which costs $26 in Minnesota and if the name on the birth certificate does not match the person’s name, which is a common occurrence for women, it would be $9 more for a copy of a marriage certificate or a divorce decree.
“In Minnesota we have an especially proud tradition of fair, open and clean elections. Photo IDs are not required to protect the integrity of our elections because voter impersonation is non-existent in our state.” Passing the photo ID requirement would “take Minnesota several steps backwards by creating unnecessary obstacles for honest citizens to vote.”
Full text of Sherri Knuth’s testimony from the Minnesota League of Women Voter’s website:
Good afternoon Mr. Chair and members of the committee.
My name is Sherri Knuth. I am the Public Policy Coordinator for the League of Women Voters Minnesota.
The League of Women Voters Minnesota opposes requiring a photo ID of registered voters at the polls because it is unnecessary, costly and harmful:
1) Unnecessary because the only thing that a photo ID can prevent is voter impersonation and there is no evidence of voter impersonation in Minnesota. In fact the incidence of voter impersonation in all of the United States is demonstrably rare.
2) Costly because both the state and local governments—and thus the taxpayers–must incur costs for providing photo IDs. The government would be required to:
a) provide free photo IDs for those who do not have one,
b) educate voters and election personnel on the new photo ID requirement and on the process of provisional balloting, and
c) implement a provisional balloting system, something that Minnesota has never had.
3) harmful because many elderly, disabled, low-income and young voters do not have appropriate IDs and would face hurdles—insurmountable in some cases—both in obtaining IDs and in going to an election office to verify their provisional ballots. A photo ID requirement would disenfranchise the very people who currently must work the hardest to vote at all.
Among those people are homeless veterans. According to a study by Wilder Research, the number of homeless veterans in Minnesota has reached an all-time high. On the night of Oct.22, 2009, 605 men and 64 women in Minnesota who had previously served in a branch of the armed forces of the United States were without permanent shelter. That is one in 10 homeless adults. 26% of those 669 homeless veterans had served in a combat zone.
How would a photo ID requirement affect a homeless veteran or other disadvantaged individuals who want to vote? Under SF509, any citizen who does not have a government-issued photo ID showing his or her current address must obtain a photo ID from one of 139 driver’s license locations in the state. The citizen must go to one of those offices, and to do so, some citizens will have to overcome problems with obtaining transportation and paying for it. In some cases, that would be an insurmountable obstacle for a homeless veteran.
Once at the driver’s license office, the citizen in search of a free ID must show proof of citizenship. A copy of a birth certificate, which would establish citizenship and age, costs $26 in Minnesota. If a citizen’s full name is different than the name on the birth certificate, a situation more likely to affect women, the citizen must also provide legal proof of the name change, such as a marriage license or divorce decree. A copy of a marriage license in Minnesota costs $9. Moreover, citizens may have to order birth certificates or marriage licenses from other states. In many cases, that would be an insurmountable obstacle for Minnesota’s vulnerable citizens, including homeless veterans.
Any citizen also may have difficulty obtaining a birth certificate. In Indiana after a voter ID law was implemented, elections officials noted that some citizens face a “Catch-22”: they need a birth certificate to obtain a photo ID but they need a photo ID to obtain a birth certificate. In many cases, that would be an insurmountable obstacle for our most vulnerable.
Because of the lead time needed, any citizen who needs a photo ID card may not be able to obtain a photo ID in time for an election. And unless the citizen could obtain one during the seven days following the election and take that ID to the local elections office, the citizen’s provisional ballot and vote would not count. Based on the challenges faced by homeless veterans, it is highly unlikely that voting provisionally would safeguard their votes.
Finally, SF509 provides that a voter identification cardholder who changes their address must apply for a duplicate voter identification card. This too, places additional burdens, some of which will be insurmountable, on homeless veterans and other disadvantaged citizens who want to vote.
In Minnesota we have an especially proud tradition of fair, open and clean elections. Photo IDs are not required to protect the integrity of our elections because voter impersonation is nonexistent in our state. Moreover, SF 509 creates unnecessary obstacles for honest citizens, including some veterans, to vote. LWV Minnesota urges you to vote against SF 509.