Keep it easy to vote by ensuring ballot integrity

  • Article by: NORM COLEMAN
  • Updated: October 5, 2012 - 7:44 PM
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Opponents of Minnesota's constitutional amendment to require a valid photo ID prior to voting are increasingly crying wolf rather than focusing on the facts. The developing logic around their opposition suggests that they are of the opinion that some level of voter fraud is acceptable in Minnesota and that a photo ID is an impediment to voting.

There are exceptionally few impediments to voting in Minnesota.

We allow voters to show up to the polls on election day ... register ... and cast their vote.

And, if one goes to the secretary of state's website and looks up the various ways to register on election day, there are repeated references to bringing a photo ID as proof -- not of just your residence, but that you are indeed who you claim to be.

In fact, with only three exceptions listed explicitly on the website, every other requirement needed to register to vote on election day, if you are not currently registered to vote, requires some form of photo ID:

• A valid student ID card, including your photo, if your college has provided a student housing list to election officials.

• A tribal ID card that contains your picture and signature.

• Both a photo ID and a current bill with your current name and address in the precinct. (The website lists acceptable sources for the ID and bills.)

Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, rebuffed by the Minnesota Supreme Court after attempting to change the title of the ballot question to reflect his personal opposition to a photo ID requirement, is the same secretary of state whose own department's website outlines numerous, specific requirements that one must meet using a photo ID before even being allowed to register to vote on election day.

As I have written about elsewhere, even former President Jimmy Carter supports photo ID requirements for voters, as evidenced by a 2005 bipartisan Commission on Federal Election Reform report that he coauthored with former Secretary of State James Baker. They reached the conclusion that our "electoral system cannot inspire public confidence if no safeguards exist to deter and detect fraud or to confirm the identity of voters." As a result, the Carter-Baker Commission recommended that states adopt a photo identification system.

As Carter said at the time: "Some critics of voter IDs think the government cannot do this job, but Mexico and most poor countries in the world have been able to register and give IDs to almost all their citizens. Surely the United States can do it, too."

Which is why opponents to photo ID requirements are now resorting to two specious arguments:

• One, that photo ID prevents people from voting.

• Two, that while there is fraud, there's not too much fraud.

To the argument about suppressing voter participation, it should be noted that 31 states have a photo ID requirement, including, in 2011, liberal Rhode Island, which passed a voter ID statute with significant support from black and Latino legislators.

In states that have photo ID, participation in elections has actually increased.

Regarding opponents' second argument: Suggesting that there's not too much fraud has as much weight as suggesting there's not too much drunken driving.

We don't reform systems and processes and laws in America solely on the basis of whether there is too much or too little of something.

We do so when common sense requires us to act.

Is there voter fraud in Minnesota? Yes. Is it rampant and out of control? Not yet.

Can the level of fraud, no matter how small, affect the outcome of elections in our state and elsewhere in the nation? Absolutely.

The function of requiring a photo ID isn't intended to block anyone's right to vote. It's to continue to ensure the integrity of the electoral process. Ultimately, it's the right of every voter who casts a legitimate vote to never have it canceled out by those who -- no matter how many or how few -- cast an illegitimate vote.

Minnesota is a place where common sense tends to outweigh senselessness.

The right to vote is central to our existence as a democracy; we should not lower the bar of integrity in our electoral process by accepting the arguments of photo ID opponents that some level of voter fraud is the price we pay for the most liberal voting laws in America.

On the contrary, we should promote liberal access to the polls -- doing all we can to prevent any voter fraud now, or in the future. And, the price we all should be willing to pay to protect and preserve our right to vote, and have our votes mean something, should be requiring a valid photo ID on Election Day.

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Former U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman is chairman of the American Action Network. For more commentaries on the photo ID amendment, go here.

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