While Minnesota appears to be leading the nation in convictions for voter fraud, U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison thinks our wide-open voting system should be a model for the nation.
In reaction to recent efforts to prevent voter fraud in Minnesota and other states, Ellison has introduced two bills to impose the worst elements of Minnesota's election laws onto the whole country.
Most election systems require voters to register at least 20 days before voting so the information they provide can be verified through a number of behind-the-scenes processes. Some states, like Minnesota, allow Election Day registration.
But most also employ provisional ballots so voters not verified by the normal registration process still have to be verified before their ballots are actually counted. Not so in Minnesota.
We're a trusting lot and one of only six states that don't employ provisional ballots of some kind for unverified voters.
Ellison's "Same Day Registration Act" would require all states to allow unverified voters to register and vote on Election Day.
This bad idea is made worse by a companion bill, the "Voter Access Protection Act." It would prohibit states from requiring voters to show photo ID.
This is a very bad mixture to those concerned with election integrity.
Ellison says his proposals are needed to "curb voter suppression" and protect the rights of young, elderly and minority voters. But while more than 140 recent convictions for voter fraud are documented in Minnesota alone, there's never been more than speculation about modern voter ID or registration laws disenfranchising voters.
In fact, voter ID laws have been challenged in the U.S. and state Supreme Courts in recent years, and have been upheld as constitutional.
U.S. District Court Judge Harold Murphy, who initially blocked Georgia's voter ID law with a temporary restraining order based upon the hyperbolic speculation of mass voter disenfranchisement by the League of Women Voters, Common Cause and the NAACP, wound up upholding the law after hearing the evidence.
Murphy found that the 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."
The net effect of Ellison's two bills would be to allow anyone and everyone to cast a ballot on Election Day without any mechanism to verify identity, citizenship and eligibility, or that people live in the state and precinct where they are voting. This is Minnesota's system.
Minnesotans are by and large a trusting lot. I've been in stores in northern Minnesota where people sometimes take what they need and leave money on the counter if the cashier isn't handy. The honor system has its limits, though.
Our votes control trillions of public dollars, yet Ellison seems to be under the delusion that nobody would ever steal them. Who would keep their money in a bank that allowed people to make withdrawals without checking their identity and verifying that they are entitled to the money?
It's your money. You have a right to the money. But a trustworthy bank will still ask for ID before they give it you.
Likewise, voting is a right, but it's a qualified right.
A Minnesota voter must be at least 18; must be a U.S. citizen; must be a resident of the state and the precinct, and must not be a felon still serving a sentence or under a guardianship in which he or she has lost the right to vote. In addition, we are each entitled to just one vote.
Common sense suggests we verify a voter meets these qualifications. But right now, Minnesota will take your word for it.
It might be cathartic and nostalgic to imagine that all of Minnesota is like those small town shops up north, but it isn't realistic.
It's your vote just as much as it's your money. Would you rather trust it to the honor system, or protect it with photo ID?
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Dan McGrath is executive director of Minnesota Majority.