Minnesota Election Integrity vs. Voter Disenfranchisement

TheUptake-StatewatchElectionIntegrityVsDisenfranchisement148-964

Video and text by Marisa Wojcik

To what degree would the requirement for a voter to present a photo identification card at the polls impact a state election in Minnesota? The answer is, we’re not entirely sure yet.

Sen. Warren Limmer, R-Maple Grove, is the author of SF 509 which would mandate such an identification card when Minnesotans went to the polls. Rep. Mary Kiffmeyer, R-Big Lake and former Secretary of State, authored the House companion legislation, HF 210. As the bills advance in both the House and the Senate, issues of the bills’ monetary costs, election integrity, voter fraud and voter disenfranchisement have been major concerns.

Even though there are currently eight states with photo identification laws currently in effect, we are still missing crucial data that would help determine the effectiveness of such a law. There are no studies that examine the effects of a photo identification law on a state’s election, which is the first problem Minnesota runs into when discussing whether this is necessary for the state. Studies and reports can examine turnout and fraud rates across various states, but does not pinpoint whether or not a photo identification was the factor among factors at play.

“There is a shortage of empirical evidence,” said Professor David Schultz of Hamline University. Professor Schultz wrote and published two studies on voter fraud in the United States. Both studies found that the level of voter fraud that occurs in the United States cannot be determined as significant in effecting the outcome of an election.

The Paradox

Studies such as “Facts About Ineligible Voting and Voter Fraud in Minnesota” written and published by Citizens for Election Integrity or “Less than Fundeamental: The Myth of Voter Fraud and the Coming of the Second Great Disenfranchisement” written by Professor Schultz, have shown that voter fraud is near to negligible in considering election outcomes. The CEIM study found that .0404 percent of all people who voted in Minnesota were investigated for voter fraud in the November 2010 elections. However, “an investigation does not indicate guilt,” the study says. “Based on the survey, nine ten-thousandths of one percent (0.0009%) of 2008 voters were convicted of fraud.”

The response from proponents of photo identification legislation is that the fraud could be there, we just don’t know about it, so why take a chance? For states such as Indiana, following the adoption of a photo identification law, there was no increased detection of voter fraud. For proponents of photo identification, this says that photo identification works because any fraud that was occurring without adoption of the law has now been put to an end.

For opponents of the photo identification, this says that one of the chief arguments in favor of the law is now questionable because there was no fraud to prevent.

Disenfranchisement

There is potential for Minnesota citizens to be unable to vote if a voter photo identification card is required at the polls. Students returning to class in September have transient living situations and are subject to move roughly once a year. If they don’t have the correct current address on their photo identification card it must be renewed with every move. Many students in Minnesota are not originally from the state. For out-of-state students, their driver’s license will not suffice and a special voter card must be issued.

Senior citizens, citizens with disabilities and citizens who are homeless or living in a temporary residence will have to deal with issues of transportation to obtain the identification card prior to the election and proof of residence for that district. The state of Minnesota cannot dictate what goes onto the identification cards of the 11 American Indian tribes.

Kathy Bonnifield of Citizens for Election Integrity Minnesota says we shouldn’t be so hung up on what the possible intentions behind adopting a photo identification law. Instead, we need to look at the impact.

Integrity

Those in favor of the legislation say it will increase integrity by insuring Minnesota that fraudulent voting is not occurring. Bonnifield warns it could potentially decrease the integrity of our elections.

“When you talk about election integrity, it includes as many eligible voters as possible. Excluding eligible voters means there might be an election integrity issue where the people elected into office really don’t represent all eligible voters, it would only mean all eligible voters who happened to have the proper i.d.,” said Bonnifield.

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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