A pro-photo ID website is using racial imagery to push a the ID requirement for voters, opponents said Monday.
"We are here today to express our absolute outrage at the race-baiting and the overt racism that proponents of the photo ID amendment from the likes of Minnesota Majority have put forward,'' said Dan McGrath, executive director of TakeAction Minnesota, a group that opposes requiring all voters to show a photo ID.
Minnesota Majority is the main group backing the photo ID requirement advancing through the legislature. TakeAction referred to an image on a website Minnesota Majority maintains that is called wewantvoterid.com. The image shows an African-American man in striped prison garb, a Hispanic person in what appears to be a mariachi costume, a superhero, a ghost and what appears to be a dead body. The caption states: "voter Fraud: Watch how easy it is to cheat in Minnesota's elections."
The TakeAction group, joined by state Rep. Rena Moran, DFL-St. Paul, said the black and Hispanic images are part of an attempt to use race to build support for the photo ID requirement. TakeAction cites studies suggesting that African-Americans are less likely to have a current-address, government-issued Photo ID that would meet the requirement being proposed.
"An African-American man in a prison uniform is what proponents of this issue have made Photo ID all about," said McGrath of TakeAction. He said Minnesota Majority and allied groups are using "race and not-so-subtle racism to feed a public perception of fear..." He said the same groups conducted an advertising campaign in predominantly African American neighborhoods in the 2010 election to "to suppress the vote of African American voters."
The head of Minnesota Majority -- whose name is also Dan McGrath -- said there was no attempt to use race to advance the photo ID proposal. The prison-striped figure refers to the problem of felons voting, he said, and the mariachi character represents illegal immigrants. The other figures represent "dead voters and fictitious identities," he said.
He accused the TakeAction group of using "race-baiting" in the place of solid arguments.
"Page one in the playbook of the leftist groups is to smear your opponent as a right-wing religious bigot," said Minnnesota Majority's Dan McGrath. He said the 2010 effort was part of a statewide attempt to "suppress voter fraud" and to put out the message that illegal voters would get caught.
Photo ID has become the flash-point issue of the 2012 session. It was vetoed last year by DFL Gov. Mark Dayton when the Republican-controlled Legislature passed it as a bill. This year, the plan is to put it on the ballot as a proposed constitutional amendment, a strategy which avoid's Dayton's veto pen.