Donna Grethen, Tribune Media Services
Voter ID opponents try, try again
- Article by: JEFF DAVIS
- February 23, 2012 - 7:00 PM
Voting is a qualified right that comes with responsibilities.
The Star Tribune editorial on Feb. 20 ("A voting solution in search of a problem") takes the absurd position that voters should bear no responsibility in the exercise of that right. They apparently shouldn't even be so inconvenienced as to identify themselves, to give the rest of us confidence in the outcome of our elections.
Keeping and bearing arms is also a right guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. Why hasn't the Star Tribune Editorial Board advocated for the elimination of laws requiring handgun buyers to show an ID?
Obtaining valid ID is no more burdensome than registering to vote. It's a simple matter of paperwork, and the state will even provide voters with photo ID at no charge.
Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, a staunch opponent of Voter ID, claims that there are more than 200,000 Minnesota residents without photographic identification (perhaps a portion of these individuals may be accounted for by the nearly 200,000 noncitizens that the U.S. Census Bureau estimates currently reside in Minnesota).
Even for those eligible voters who currently lack photo ID, this isn't the same thing as lacking tonsils. Any eligible voter who wants to vote can obtain ID any time.
In those rare instances where a person was never issued a birth certificate and may have lived off the grid his or her whole life, obtaining ID is still possible. The Department of Public Safety has procedures to deal with such cases.
Rather than hold these few examples up as an excuse to maintain a broken status quo, we can help people get the ID they need.
For example, the state could establish an ID hot line designed to help people in extraordinary circumstances to navigate the process of getting ID. A number of options are possible. Obtaining an ID will undoubtedly provide other benefits for such people.
Despite the misleading hyperbole being promoted by the opponents of voter ID, Election Day registration and absentee voting will continue under the proposed amendment. Voters will simply have to positively identify themselves and have their eligibility verified.
Other than that, nothing really changes. In fact, if the voter ID amendment leads to legislation similar to that vetoed by Gov. Mark Dayton last year, Election Day registration will actually be faster, easier and more reliable.
When not calling people who disagree with them racists, opponents of Voter ID repeatedly return to their claim that thousands of people will be disenfranchised by voter ID. But that hasn't happened in the other states that require photo ID. To the contrary, voter turnout has increased.
Voter fraud is a real threat to our democratic process that's been proven by nearly 200 convictions in Minnesota courts. In fact, Minnesota currently leads the nation in voter fraud convictions. Additionally, our research into county attorney prosecutions suggests that only a small fraction of ineligible voters are actually being charged with voter fraud, due to a provision in our election laws that requires prosecutors to prove intent, thereby allowing individuals to simply plead ignorance.
By contrast, the disenfranchisement argument being advanced by the opponents of voter ID has been repeatedly disproved in the courts.
When the League of Women Voters challenged Indiana's voter ID law on disenfranchisement grounds, the Indiana Supreme Court found: "No individual voter has alleged that the Voter ID Law has prevented him or her from voting or inhibited his or her ability to vote in any way."
The league is persistent with its disproved arguments, however. When it teamed up with Common Cause and the NAACP to try to stop Georgia's voter ID law, it took the disenfranchisement claim to federal court and won a temporary restraining order based on the apocalyptic scenario it painted.
But ultimately, the league was again rebuffed.
On examining the actual evidence, the court upheld the voter ID law and decreed: "Plaintiffs' failure, despite their efforts, to uncover anyone who can attest to the fact that he/she will be prevented from voting provides significant support for the conclusion that the Photo ID requirement does not unduly burden the right to vote."
Disenfranchisement has been repeatedly disproved in the courts, whereas Minnesota now has the dubious distinction of having the most voter fraud convictions in modern history. In light of this, it leaves one to wonder about the true motives of people who stand in the way of voter ID.
Jeff Davis is president of Minnesota Majority.
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