The Gustavian Weekly

The hidden cost of voting | The Gustavian Weekly

By Kristina Ericksen Columnist | April 19, 2012 | Opinion

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.

And really, do you want to live in a country where McLovin can’t legally vote? The Creative Commons.

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?

2 Comments

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  1. Kathy Bonnifield says:

    Most of this editorial is accurate, but I would like to make a correction and also note how this differs from other states. In this editorial, Ms. Ericksen highlighted what kinds of IDs would be valid and what kinds will not be valid. It would be up to the 2013 legislature to determine this which government-issued IDs would be valid and which ones would not be valid. At this point, we really don’t know what would be valid….we can only guess.

    We do know that a University of Minnesota student ID might be valid (but then, again, it might not) while a Gustavus Adolphus College student ID would definitely not be valid. This is because the UMN is a state school (hence its IDs may be considered government-issued) while Gustavus is a private school so they could never be acceptable. (In fact a number of people, including elections administrators, requested they change the language from government-issued to government-approved and often cited the hope that this would allow private college IDs to be considered acceptable. But, these proposals were not approved. )

    Also, I think it’s important for Gustavus students to remember that the ID they use to register this year may not be acceptable IDs in the future.
    Every other state that has passed voter photo ID laws has had exemptions. For example, believe it or not, if you are poor in Indiana, you don’t need a photo ID. There are some hoops you have to jump through—you first have to show up at a precinct and cast a provisional ballot. Then, within 10 days you have to go to an elections office and sign an affidavit stating that you don’t have an ID and that you’re indigent. (Why they can’t sign the affidavit at the precinct is beyond me….)

    Absentee voters are exempted for this requirement in most states that have voter ID laws. (Wisconsin, the one state that does require absentee voters to have IDs has a long list of exemptions, including Peace Corps Volunteers and members of the military who are overseas.) But, the proposed change to the Minnesota constitution says that all voters—both in-person and absentee voters—must have “substantially equivalent identity” verification standards. Since this impacts all voters, it does not allow for exemptions. Furthermore, there is a great level of uncertainty of what the term “substantially equivalent verification” really means. What is the substantial equivalent of a voter standing in front of an election judge and showing his or her ID? We don’t know. It was not explained to anyone at any of the legislative hearings.

    Finally, no other state has implemented a voter photo ID law by constitutional mandate. The one state that did pass a constitutional mandate, Mississippi, has not implemented it yet. And, even they included exemptions to a voter photo ID requirement within its constitution.
    The devil is in the details of this proposed constitutional amendment. A good article, which quotes the Nicollet County Auditor, Bridgette Kennedy, and the Blue Earth County Auditor, Patty O’Connor ,is found at http://m.mankatofreepress.com/MFP/db_264901/contentdetail.htm?contentguid=LZ15XVox&full=true#display.

    It’s really important that you educate yourselves about this proposed amendment. Amending the constitution should not be taken lightly.

    Kathy Bonnifield, class of 1994
    Executive Director, Citizens for Election Integrity Minnesota

  2. PaulFDavis says:

    Thank you for this stimulating discussion and your valuable insights on the subject of integrity.