In launching an attack on voter fraud, Minnesota legislators are like Don Quixote going after his dragon: They are fighting an imaginary problem.
A few legislators recently introduced a bill requiring all voters in Minnesota to show a valid photo identification in order to vote. While this may seem a reasonable request, many people in Minnesota do not have the ID that this law would require.
Indiana has already shown us the impact that a photo identification law can have. During that state's presidential primary, a group of nuns were turned away from the polls because they lacked proper government identification. As would be the case in Minnesota, the Indiana law has largely affected older Americans who no longer need driver's licenses.
Should Americans who no longer drive be disenfranchised? Should veterans who fought to defend our country be turned away at the polls because they don't have valid photo identification?
For some, the costs of obtaining a government-issued ID are prohibitive. In most cases, Minnesota charges a $24 fee to obtain a driver's license. Besides the fee, a variety of documents may be required, including a birth certificate, a passport or a naturalization certificate. Obtaining these forms can cost up to $200. Such costs are tantamount to a poll tax and are an unreasonable burden for segments of our population.
The Indiana law creates unfair restrictions. That has not prevented some legislators from attempting to bring Indiana's photo identification requirements to Minnesota to prevent voter fraud. But the facts just do not support the existence of such fraud. Most reported fraud is caused by clerical errors and computer problems with voter rolls. It is not the devious work of someone attempting to vote multiple times.
A study by the Brennan Center found that "allegations of widespread voter fraud ... often prove greatly exaggerated. ... Many of the claims of voter fraud amount to a great deal of smoke without much fire. The allegations simply do not pan out."
This study rings true in Minnesota. In 2004, former Secretary of State Mary Kiffmeyer claimed that there were 14 instances of voter fraud; only one of those cases was prosecuted. More recently, teams of lawyers from the Franken and Coleman campaigns have been unable to discover any voter fraud during the Senate recount. They have discovered some problems with the election system, but none of those would be solved by photo identification legislation.
Voter fraud is not a problem in Minnesota. Legislators are better off spending their time on problems that truly plague the state.
Mike Dean is executive director of Common Cause Minnesota.