Voter Photo ID Dissuades Rural Poor From Voting, Says Mexican-American

Interview by Allison Herrera, story by Jacob Wheeler

Mexican-American Julia Olson offers a warning for what could happen if Minnesota passes a constitutional amendment that mandates state-issue Voter Photo IDs. Before she immigrated to the United States and became an American citizen, she saw how Photo ID requirements dissuade many rural Mexicans from voting. Many don’t have the money, or access to transportation, to acquire photo identification.

“They can’t go to the big city to get it, and so their vote doesn’t count,” says Olson. “When I came to Minnesota 41 years ago and became an American citizen, I was so proud that my vote counted. Now I’m so afraid that it’s not gonna happen.”

“If they take this right away, then just the politicians, the people with money, power and (photo ID) cards, they’re the ones who will choose. It’s so important not to lose that right.”

Olson addressed a town hall meeting held by Congressman Keith Ellison on Aug. 6 in Saint Louis Park about the consequences if the proposed Voter Photo ID constitutional amendment passes on the November ballot. See related stories, Voter Photo ID a “Huge Step Backwards” for Voting Rights of Disabled Minnesotans and Iraq War Vet Sees Voting Rights Under Fire at Home.

Olson also worries that, at polling places, she’ll be singled out for being Mexican. She claims she’s been stopped a couple times already for “driving while Mexican” — ostensibly because police suspected she was in the country illegally.

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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