Voting in elections is a constitutionally given right. It’s one of those perks of young adulthood most Gusties have recently acquired. At 18, we can join the army, gamble, buy spray paint, porn and cigarettes. And, most importantly, we can finally vote.
This November’s elections will be a first for many young Gusties, and the first chance to vote in a presidential election for a lot of us too. But this November there will be a new addition to the ballot. Republicans have proposed to require voters to provide government issued photo identification on the spot at voting polls in order to fight “voter fraud.” What this means is that people who don’t have an up-to-date photo identification, like many seniors, the poor and students, will be threatened by this potential amendment. These people of limited means and mobility may soon lose their fundamental right to vote.
Because a majority of the legislature voted for this proposed constitutional amendment, Governor Mark Dayton cannot veto it, though he has publicly spoken against it. So, ironically, it will be up to voters this November to decide who should be able to vote and who should not. If it passes, seniors who no longer drive or Gusties who don’t have a current license would have to acquire government-issued identification beforehand. Because there is so much buzz about the marriage amendment, in addition to Obama and Romney, this proposal could easily swim below the surface and rob thousands of their access to vote.
Many voter restrictions have been proposed this year all across the U.S. Just this past month, voter identification legislation passed in Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin ruled it unconstitutional. Right now there are five states that require photo identification to vote, and three more states will join them as they go into effect this upcoming November. Voter restriction is just another unnecessary step in the voting process.
“This is a partisan amendment based on a false premise that voter fraud is a significant problem in Minnesota,” Governor Dayton said, speaking out against the so-called voter fraud that the proposal is attempting to prevent.
Actually, Minnesota has the highest voter turnout rate out of all fifty states, and virtually all of our recorded voter irregularity is due to felons voting. Even then, felons have the same required photo identification as everybody else, so this amendment would not even solve those voter irregularities that currently exist. What the proposal will actually do is hinder everybody’s access to vote.
The law will work like this: if you don’t have an up-to-date, state-issued photo identification, you will only be able to cast a provisional ballot if you choose to vote. These are counted and added to the total on the condition that the voter returns within a few days with the appropriate photo identification.
The problem here is in the target and the transportation. Many of the voters who lack photo identification, especially the elderly, students and the poor, also lack transportation, which could discourage voters and skew results. Finding a way to the polls once is hard enough, and adding the burden of a return trip, as well as missed time from work, child care and other expenses, keeps voters at bay. Acquiring state-issued photo-identification isn’t free either.
The voters that this bill is targeting are those who won’t likely have the means to easily acquire identification. Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie estimates that about 215,000 Minnesotans do not have the identification that the amendment requires. Voting is a fundamental right, so why are we making some pay for it?
This November it will be more important than ever to cast your vote while you still can. Hundreds of thousands of voters could soon have their ballots thrown out because of this antidemocratic amendment. It will also deter voters from exercising their rights. What will the cost of voting be for you?