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.