Supporters of Minnesota's proposed Constitutional Amendment to restrict voting ask people to ratify it based on an appeal to their narrow self interest. Despite the lack of fraud from voter impersonation, they imply that a voter is "protecting" his or her own vote. But blocking tens of thousands of other Minnesotans from voting because one or two of them might have been fraudulent, is in not protecting one's own vote.
Amendment proponents appeal to fear and self-interest, but I want to appeal to Minnesotans' sense of fairness. It is wrong to place roadblocks that make it impossible to vote for the senior in assisted living, the soldier serving in Afghanistan, the disabled woman who is homebound, or the veteran who is homeless. They have a right to vote too.
In our democracy, the right to vote is fundamental. Not just for you and me, but for all citizens of our state. Taking away the vote from our neighbors under the pretext of preventing "fraud" is a radical step backwards for that democracy. The constitution is supposed to guarantee human rights, not take them away from others who Republican politicians apparently don't want to vote.
This anti-democracy initiative is present in many states, but the proposed amendment in Minnesota is perhaps the worst assault on voters.
The recent Minnesota Supreme Court ruling on the amendment shows that if it is ratified, people needing to vote absentee by mail would lose their right to vote. The Court's opinion explicitly said that under the amendment, absentee voters who couldn't hand the election judge the government-issued photo identification, would be required to provide "something that is virtually identical to such identification." There is no way that an election judge can make a "virtually identical" verification, comparing a voter's face to their photo ID, when the election judge is in St. Paul and the absentee voter mails their ballot from a remote outpost in Afghanistan, or from anywhere else.
It is not only out-of-town voters disenfranchised by the amendment. The amendment authors tell voters not to worry about the details because they will be worked out later, by the legislature. But we don't need to wait to see the intent. The amendment's authors already showed us their intent in legislation they passed last year, blocked only by the governor's veto. In it, they would give almost no alternative to producing a drivers' license (or the state non-driver ID or a new ID created just for voting) showing the voter's current address, in order to vote.
No military IDs would be allowed. No student IDs either. While many voters assume that "everyone" has a drivers license with their current address, that simply isn't reality. And if your wallet is stolen, or you misplace your license in the weeks before an election, you won't be able to vote.
Students living away from home in a dorm, who would no longer be able to vote absentee, would need to pay for a driver's license for their new address even if they are only living there for nine months! Virtually no homeless Minnesotan, including the many Vietnam-era veterans who are living on the streets, would be able to vote if this provision is enshrined in our constitution. They risked their lives for our country, but they are not good-enough to vote?
And if a senior in assisted living or a nursing home didn't happen to keep their no-longer-needed driver's license, can you envision family members or friends transporting frail, elderly people from the nursing home to the license bureau to get a photo ID, just so they can vote?
This amendment isn't preventing fraud. It's preventing seniors in nursing homes from voting.
While Republican legislators claim this is about preventing fraud, the only type of fraud that a photo ID requirement might prevent, is when a person tries to vote by impersonating someone else. A national investigative report found only ten cases of voter impersonation in the entire U.S. during the past decade.
That's about one preventable voter fraud case in Minnesota every 50 years! For that, taxpayers would spend $32,000,000 in state funds, plus additional city and county costs – just for the first year. And, in the process we would take away the right to vote for tens of thousands of seniors, students, people with disabilities, people whose license was recently lost or stolen, and people who are more pressed with feeding their children than paying for a duplicate birth certificate and other documentation so that they can qualify for a "free" photo ID card for voting.
Minnesota has an election system that has relied, successfully, on voters signing an oath that they are eligible to vote, with violators facing a 5 year felony penalty. We have consistently had the nation's best voting system, and the highest voter turn-out. This constitutional amendment would destroy that.
The real fraud is the claim that this amendment is about fraud prevention. It is a blatant attempt to take away voting rights from countless Minnesota voters. A century after women were given the right to vote and fifty years after African-Americans were given the right to vote, this amendment would move Minnesota backwards.
Our democracy depends, not only on your individual right to vote, but also on the individual right of all of your neighbors to vote. It's time for Minnesotans to speak out on behalf of our neighbors and defeat this mean-spirited amendment.