Cities Fear Cost & Impact Of MN Voter Restriction Amendment

Video by Jacob Wheeler
Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak and St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman hold a joint news conference to discuss concerns over the costs to their cities and changes to elections administration resulting from an amendment which would significantly restrict the voting rights of eligible Minnesota voters.

City officials are opposed to the unfunded mandate state legislators want to impose on residents of Minneapolis and St. Paul, and concerned about the extent to which the counties will have to overhaul their elections systems.

Press release from “Our Vote Our Future” on Mayors’ news conference:
Saint Paul, MN – On Monday morning, Saint Paul Mayor Chris Coleman and Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak came together at the State Capitol to oppose an amendment on the November ballot which would restrict the voting rights of eligible Minnesotans. The two mayors said they are alarmed at both the costs and the extent to which elections systems in their respective municipalities will have to be overhauled should the amendment pass in November.

“This amendment is nothing more than a wolf in sheep’s clothing. It seeks to lure Minnesotans into voting for something that will cost local governments millions and make it harder for our residents to have their voice heard at the ballot box,” said Coleman. “Minnesota voters should reject it in November.”

Rybak echoed his St. Paul counterpart. “We don’t know the full extent of the costs this amendment would impose but one thing’s for certain, property taxes will increase. I encourage Minnesotans to vote ‘NO’ on this restrictive, anti-voter amendment.”

Last week, both Coleman and Rybak released their city budgets. Both spoke of the tough choices each had to make in allocating resources and balancing critical city services with additional cost burdens on residents.

Coleman and Rybak were joined by Ramsey County Elections Manager Joe Mansky and City of Minneapolis Elections Director Grace Wachlarowicz. Both described the extremes to which elections administration would have to change and projected initial cost increases to city and county residents.

Mansky said “the costs of the amendment greatly exceed its benefits,” estimating costs to Saint Paul taxpayers at eight-hundred-and-seventy thousand dollars during the 2013-2014 biennium to implement the proposed mandates. This figure includes seven-hundred-and-fifty-five thousand in city taxpayers’ share of county property tax levy for county implementation costs and one-hundred-and-fifteen thousand in a city property tax levy to cover city implementation costs.

The controversial amendment also imperils Minnesota’s four decades of Election Day registration and absentee balloting by mail. Both could be replaced by a complicated new two-step system of provisional balloting, requiring voters to first cast their ballot through a separate “provisional” polling line set up in each precinct and then having to return within five to twenty days to a county auditor to show the mandated government-approved ID in order to have their ballot actually counted.

A July report prepared by Wachlarowicz’ office in July for the Minneapolis City Council stated that costs of the voter-restriction amendment to the City of Minneapolis would include absorbing the startup and ongoing operational costs of provisional balloting, increased costs for recruiting and training elections judges, and doubling space in each polling place in order to accommodate provisional voting, among others.

Rybak said he thinks the amendment is damaging. “I don’t know too many Minneapolis residents in this economy who can afford to take time off from work — on two different days — in order to vote. Making it more complicated and confusing for our residents to vote is misleading and wrong.”

In recent weeks, a range of local officials have come out against the amendment citing costs and hurdles to seniors, students and active-duty military voting by absentee ballot. In July, Rochester Mayor Ardell Brede spoke publicly about his opposition to the amendment calling it “an extreme measure that seeks to fix a system that in Minnesota certainly isn’t broken.” City councils, including those in Minneapolis, St. Paul, St. Louis Park, Golden Valley and Crystal, have also passed resolutions against the amendment citing concerns over costs and voting restrictions for their residents.