Oh, Yay, Another Amendment Vote

Not content with trying to turn the Minnesota state constitution into an instrument of discrimination, Republican legislators have taken the voter ID provisions that were previously vetoed by Governor Dayton and put them on the November ballot as a constitutional amendment. While there are some interesting details about the ID, such as the fact that we don’t actually know what the requirements for getting one would be yet, there are really only two things you need to know about this proposed amendment. Both are numbers.

0 Cases of Fraud
That’s right. There are no known cases of voting fraud in Minnesota that would have been prevented by this amendment. Almost all of the miniscule amounts of voting fraud here involve felons voting while on probation. They’ve voted under their own names, which is why we know they voted illegally.

When the ACLU put up $1,000 to anyone who could prove voter fraud that would be prevented by the new provisions, one single case was put forward by a group that supports voter IDs. It was a case, however, involving an absentee ballot picked up by a voter’s mother. The group claims that having the mother produce the voter’s ID when picking up the absentee ballot would somehow prevent that fraud, but they weren’t clear on how that would work.

That leaves no known cases of voting fraud that would be prevented by this amendment.

215,000 Disenfranchised Voters
That’s the number of currently registered voters the Secretary of State’s office estimates could have problems meeting the voter ID requirement. The number is a little squishy, since the process for receiving the ID isn’t yet known, but it’s based on looking at populations who either move frequently, like students and the poor, and populations who have limited mobility, like the elderly and the disabled.

These are the people who leave an abusive relationship, come live on campus, find a cheaper apartment closer to a better job, move into a nursing home, move in with their adult children, find a new care facility when their health benefits change. These are all actions that involve changing addresses. None of them currently involve being stripped of one’s right to vote. Under this proposed amendment, they could. Under similar laws in other states, these actions have led to people being disenfranchised, as have such things as having had the bad luck to have been born in a hospital or county that has since lost some birth certificates.

There are circumstances in which this second number (about 7% of the current voting population of Minnesota) might be considered acceptable. However, those circumstances would have to involve voting fraud on such a scale that these voters were already being disenfranchised–something that isn’t happening here (0 cases of fraud). That’s it. That’s the only acceptable reason. Anything else is making the process less democratic.

Not “Well, I show my ID for lots of stuff. How hard can it be?” “Lots of stuff” is not your right to representation in government, the most fundamental right in a democracy. Nor does a barrier to accessing that right need to be very large before it starts denying people that right. Poll taxes were never very high. They still kept citizens from voting. They were still an unacceptable barrier to participation in democracy.

It isn’t just me saying this is wrong, either. A Wisconsin judge found similar provisions to be unconstitutionally discriminatory under state and federal law last month (although that didn’t stop a woman from being disenfranchised by the law on Tuesday).

Sadly, this amendment is currently supported by a majority of Minnesota voters, who can’t comprehend that other people live in situations different than theirs. That means it’s time to start educating now. It’s going to be a long slog to November on this one.

Oh, Yay, Another Amendment Vote
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17 thoughts on “Oh, Yay, Another Amendment Vote

  1. 3

    I have come to conclusion that one should just vote no on ballot propositions, I won’t sign the petitions (I don’t even want a vote). Occasionally there is something worth voting yes on (approving gay marriage), but most of the time it’s about some special interest’s pet project. Almost always it as unintentional consequences (e.g. California’s Prop 13) and the fact that it is usually a constitutional amendment makes fixing it almost impossible.

    Ok, I’m starting to rant. Just remember, friends don’t allow friends to vote yes.

  2. 4

    I’m not sure how I feel about this amendment. I don’t want to prevent anyone from voting, but how do we know if there’s voter fraud going on? When I go to the polling place, they ask for my name, find it in their book, and ask me to sign next to my name. That’s it. If someone came in claiming to be me, there would be no way for them to know it wasn’t me, unless I came in after and there was already a signature by my name. In this information age, it would be easy to find names of people who had died or moved and send someone to vote in their place.

    I suppose what I’m saying is I’m going to have to reserve judgment until the ID requirements are decided.

  3. 5

    It is not too often that I am embarrassed to live in MN. This is one, the other recent on was Santorum winning the Republican primary here. Michelle Bachmann is always a source of shame for me from my friends in other states. By and large though, I think we are a pretty blue and rational state–there are some notable exceptions of course. I think that this ballot will fail. I certainly hope that it does anyway!

  4. 6

    MinnPost had an article this week about state employees, including legislators, having to prove that their children and spouses are entitled to be on their health insurance. There are stories in the story itself and in the comments of the difficulty and expense related to obtaining birth and marriage certificates. How can anyone think that this won’t be an even bigger problem for low income individuals wanting to exercise their right to vote?

    I was born in England to American parents. The last time I had to get a copy of my birth certificate, it took 6 to 8 weeks. From the State Department website, it looks like the cost would be $50. Don’t try to tell me that this wouldn’t be an insurmountable barrier to voting.

  5. 7

    Surely disenfranchising a single voter is exactly the same as allowing one non-voter to vote – the result is exactly the same – the outcome is tainted by one vote.

  6. 8

    Yellow Thursday, that’s what turned up the one fraudelent absentee vote. That’s exactly how we’d find out about the problem. That and poll workers reporting that people had claimed to be someone who had already voted. If it were anything like a sizeable issue, we’d have heard about it. The kind of turnouts we get in Minnesota would ensure that. The fact that we haven’t tells us the problem is tiny if it exists at all, too tiny to invalidate any but the most local elections, where claiming to be someone you’re not is going to get you caught very quickly. The problem of disenfranchisement, on the other hand, is not small at all.

    If you wait until there are ID requirements, you’ll be waiting past November. The Republicans won’t be releasing them when the specifics could turn people off. If the details make a difference to you, vote no until they give you those details.

  7. 9

    Stephanie, I see your point. The tens or hundreds of thousands of people disenfranchised by the proposed amendment would far outweigh the handful of fraud cases that might be caught. I should have done some research, or at least read the articles you linked, before commenting. (That’ll teach me.)

    I said I intended to reserve judgment until the ID requirements were decided, but as you pointed out, the ballot question doesn’t provide details regarding the requirements. Since I can’t, in good conscience, vote for something this vague and problematic, I will have to vote against it.

  8. 11

    Truly a solution in search of a problem, or trying to create a problem. The only “voter fraud” found in this state was a handful of ex-felons voting before their time of being restricted from voting had passed. They all claimed ignorance of the actual date, not willful fraud. ID would not change that. What it will do is disproportionately disenfranchise Democrats, and in a state where the last two major elections resulted in recounts with the Democrat winning, it might be the only way the Republicans can win.

    How about we just use the Iraqi system of dipping a finger in purple dye if we’re so worried about folks maybe voting twice? It’d sure last longer than those half-adhesive “I Voted” stickers.

  9. 12

    My county has done away with in-person voting entirely. It’s all done by mail. Tough to ask for ID that way.

    @#3, we have a LOT of ballot issues — both intiatives and referendums — in this state. I’ve long since concluded that you’ll seldom go very far wrong by simply voting against all of them. There’s one pretty much every election promoted by a guy who makes his living by getting right-wing suckers to pay him to push unconstitional tax reduction issues.


    We’ll almost certainly be seeing a Prop 8 style one this fall against the recently passed gay marriage law.

  10. 13

    A friend of mine proposed a ballot initiative named “Tim Eyman is a Horse’s Ass” but it turns out you can’t make an actual initiative calling someone a name.
    We had the 25 signatures though, easy!

    I swear, every initiative he proposes is designed to gut public funding for some sort of vital service in the name of lower taxes.

  11. 14

    The picture on the front page of the Trib was telling too. Even though the paper is moving to the right in a scary way, the front page picture yesterday for the ID amendment story showed ALL old white men. The pretty much sums it up. The old white men are scared of losing power to those who do not look like them.

  12. 15

    Trebuchet – its not just about IDs. Florida conservatives found some ways to revamp their mail-in ballot process which are pretty equivalent. E.g., instead of making it harder for someone who has moved to get ID, they just make it harder for them to get a mail-in ballot. At this point the State has passed the restrictions, but the DOJ is fighting it.

  13. 16

    It seems to me that not allowing a legal and registered voter who shows up at the polls to vote is just as much a case of voter fraud as allowing someone not registered to vote.

    The penalties for both should be the same.

  14. 17

    Are there any reliable sources for the number of proven examples of voter fraud in the U.S.? I tried Google but all I got were right wing sites that made fun of left wingers without giving a shred of evidence to back up anything they said.

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