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Voter Photo ID Requirement is Unnecessary, Restrictive

The issue will be on the ballot next month as a constitutional amendment.

Editor's Note: The following is a letter to the editor. You can submit your own letter to the editor on this topic or others by emailing stlouispark@patch.com. Submission does not guarantee publication, as Patch reserves the right to publish content as it sees fit.

On Nov. 6, Minnesotans will be asked to vote on two constitutional amendments. One of those amendments would require a photo ID in order to have your vote counted on Election Day. While some ID requirements might not be a bad idea, this amendment is very bad idea and you need to vote “no.” Here’s why:

This will be the most restrictive voter ID law in the country; it makes no exceptions for anyone who does not have a state issued photo ID on Election Day for any reason. If you don’t have the ID your vote doesn’t get counted on Election Day, period. No exceptions for seniors, veterans, homeless, or people who had their ID stolen the week before. No Exceptions. It’s estimated that over 200,000 Minnesotans currently lack the required ID and NO state has achieved 100 percent ID distribution to those who needed them—even when they’re free. If you show up to vote without your ID you will get a Provisional Ballot. The provisional ballot system is a completely new (and expensive) additional layer of complexity that will be added to our current election system.

Here’s what you need to know about provisional ballots: many of them NEVER get counted. In some Florida counties, as many as 94 percent of the provisional ballots didn’t get counted in the last election. In one Ohio county, provisional ballots didn’t get counted until 17 months after the election. On average, 30 percent of provisional ballots don’t get counted—not because they are illegal votes, but because the voters can’t get the state to count their votes. Election officials in Ohio refused to count thousands of provisional ballots until a judge ordered them to do so; voters literally had to go to court to get their votes counted. Does having thousands of uncounted ballots sitting around after Election Day sound like a good idea to you?

This requirement is not “common sense.” If it were, courts all over the country from Pennsylvania to Wisconsin to Texas wouldn’t be blocking its implementation. The courts are blocking these requirements because they DO in fact violate voters' rights.

Not only is this the most restrictive ID law, but it will be chiseled into our constitution, which means it can’t be easily fixed if we have problems. If we end up with thousands of uncounted ballots, disenfranchised seniors, students, and homeless people and we don’t like it, we’re stuck with it. We have to go through this whole thing all over again in order to repeal the amendment.

Voter ID is worse than doing nothing about voter fraud. We have a very small voter fraud problem in Minnesota, there have been 10 documented cases of voter fraud in Minnesota since 2008. We’ve had two recent recounts that were conducted under a national magnifying glass and monitored by both political parties, and no fraud was revealed or substantiated. The only kind of fraud the ID could prevent is voter impersonation and there have been exactly zero cases of such impersonation in MN. The few cases of voter fraud we have are typically committed by people who have perfectly valid IDs.

If Voter ID did nothing it would simply be an expensive and irrelevant additional layer of Election Day bureaucracy, but this law will prevent perfectly legitimate voting and create unnecessary barriers for the most vulnerable people in our state. In many ways, voter ID is kind of like the gun laws the NRA is always complaining about; it will only stop law abiding citizens from exercising their rights while leaving criminals untouched. If this voter ID law goes into effect, the number of uncounted provisional ballots from perfectly legal voters will undoubtedly exceed the number of fraudulent votes. This voter ID amendment actually damages our electoral system by generating thousands of legal votes that will never be counted—we’d be better off doing nothing.

Vote “No” in November (or simply leave it blank), preserve our election integrity and make sure that everyone who has a right to vote in Minnesota will continue to have their vote counted!

-Paul Udstrand

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