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Alan Diaz, Associated Press

Editorial: Count the reasons to defeat voter ID

  • November 2, 2012 - 8:58 PM

An important legal ruling this week highlighted several reasons why Minnesotans should defeat the proposed voter ID amendment on Nov. 6.

Last month, two Republican legislators filed complaints against DFL Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, alleging that he made false statements about the costs and effects of the proposed constitutional amendment. They said that Ritchie improperly used his office to work against the measure on his website and in other communications.

But on Thursday, Administrative Law Judge Bruce Johnson dismissed the complaint, finding no probable cause that the law had been violated.

The amendment would require voters to present a government-issued photo ID at the polls. On the surface, that may sound easy enough. Many state residents already have identification. But for some groups -- including the elderly, students and lower-income voters -- the requirement could present a significant barrier to voting.

And even though the proposal would offer free IDs for eligible voters, that process would not be without cost. The state and counties would pay millions not only to produce and distribute the IDs, but also to create a same-day provisional voting process.

In providing information as the state's chief elections administrator, Ritchie said the amendment could cost $50 million or more and would cause a significant change in the process for same-day voting. He also stated that it's unclear how some absentee votes would be handled and that enacting photo ID could trigger lawsuits and oversight by the U.S. Justice Department.

GOP lawmakers claimed that those statements were untrue and that making them amounted to political activity. But Johnson wisely ruled that Ritchie's comments were not "demonstrably false.''

As this page previously has argued, voters are being asked to say "yes" to a half-baked idea and to trust that a future Legislature would work out the details and financing later. Then, to add insult to injury, passing the amendment would solidify the poorly framed notion in the state's Constitution.

Legislating via constitutional amendment -- especially on voting rules -- is not the best way to craft laws. DFL Gov. Mark Dayton and former Gov. Arne Carlson, a Republican, rightly agree that voting statutes are best handled through cooperative, legislative efforts.

And that's where this proposal belongs -- either on the shelf for good or back in the Legislature for bipartisan review.

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To read more commentaries about the photo ID amendment, go here.

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