Debating MN’s Voter Restriction Constitutional Amendment

Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman says the proposed Minnesota Voter Restriction Constitutional Amendment, “Is not necessary, restricts franchise and costs a hell of a lot of money.” John Fund, author of, “Who’s Counting? How Fraudsters and Bureaucrats Put Your Vote at Risk,” and a long time critic of Minnesota voting, claims that 90% of voter fraud is unseen and below the surface. He refers to “thousands of cases of voter fraud” in the 2008 Coleman-Franken election.

Freeman and Fund participated in a debate at St. Thomas Law School on September 10, 2012, sponsored by The Federalist Society and the Center of the American Experiment. Kim Crockett, Chief Operating Officer. EVP & General Counsel of the center moderated the debate which comes just a few months before Minnesotans will vote on the voter restriction constitutional amendment.

Freeman presented a defense of the present system, one that has achieved national acclaim for honesty and high voter turnout. There have been a very fraud and cases and some irregularities, but nothing with detectable impact on voting results. The 2008 Senatorial Election was subjected to a long and detailed recount. Lawyers from both parties agreed that there was no fraud to be found, however hard they looked for. Freeman believes that the amendment in addition to costing the state and municipalities millions of dollars it severely restricts voting for many groups and almost eliminates Minnesota’s admired same-day-voting program. He quoted Justice Alan Page calling the amendment, “A classic bait and switch,” and Justice Paul Anderson describing it as, “Inaccurate, misleading and deceptive.”

Fund cited numbers of alleged felons voting and statistics about deceased voters voting. In a moment of levity in what was an intense of contentious discussion, Lind said. “I’m all for honoring our dead but I don’t believe in representation without respiration.” He discussed many anecdotes about issues in other states. He referenced Democratic Senator Chris Dodd from Connecticut who said in 2002, “We can make it easy to vote and make it harder to cheat, we can do both.” He presented many statistics sometimes with vague attribution, but often without proof. Freeman challenged a few claims but ignored most of the specific numbers cited. Fund claimed, “Much of voter fraud can never be detected, it is like and iceberg, 1/10 above the surface, 9/10 below the surface.” He offered no substantiation for that claim.

Fund also disputed the claims of the numbers of voters who couldn’t get IDs. He claimed. “It is far fewer than 25% of African Americans they preposterously claim can’t get ID. How patronizing to say that 25% of African Americans can’t obtain ID.” His theme was that all persons should have photo IDs and all possible effort should be directed to distributing IDs to all.

Moderator Kim Crockett asked, “If we do wind up spending a hundred million bucks (to implement the proposed Voter Restriction Amendment) isn’t that a small price to pay for the principles I’d like to have govern this discussion, voters should be confident that their election system is sure to detect fraud.”

The opposing points of view were clear and distinct. Freeman argued that this legislation is a very expensive solution to a non-existing problem and that it carries a clear denial of the right to vote for many citizens, perhaps as many as 750,000.

Fund claims that voter fraud is a continuing serious issue, with numbers far greater than any previously reported and that voters will be more confident of the results if all are required to have a photo ID. Felons voting fraudulently are cited as a major problem, but a photo ID would not prevent them from voting.

Minnesota has been working to identify felon voters before the election. There used to be a serious lag in the Department of Corrections communications to the Secretary of State. This lag is being reduced and a felon notation is now made in the signature section on many of the voting rosters, making it impossible for the felon to sign, with or without photo ID.

The final question from the audience was in the spirit of Minnesota voting history. He stated, “I must point out what I consider the much more important voting problem. Low voter turnout.”

Above: debate highlights
Below: Full video of the debate in two parts:
Part 1

Part 2

Bill Sorem

Bill Sorem is a longtime advertising professional who started with Campbell Mithun and ended up with his own agency. After a tour as a sailing fleet manager in the Virgin Islands he turned to database programming as an independent consultant. He has written sailing guides for the British Virgin Islands and Belize, and written for a number of blogs. In 2010, he volunteered as a citizen journalist with The UpTake and has stayed on as a video reporter.

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