Vote no on Voter ID amendment

When it comes to the Minnesota Voter ID amendment on the ballot this fall, the question you need to ask yourself is this:
Would you prevent thousands of eligible voters from voting in order to prevent a handful of ineligible voters from voting? Because that is exactly the effect the amendment would have.
It sounds like common sense to require photo ID to vote. Most people you know have a driver’s license or other form of photo ID or can get one with little effort. Why is it such a controversy? For several reasons, in addition to the one already raised — the disenfranchisement of eligible voters. For one thing, it’s unAmerican. Second, it’s unnecessary. Third, it’s a shameless power grab by one political party.
Voting is a right guaranteed by the Constitution (see 15th Amendment), just like the right to bear arms, the right to assemble, and the right to speak freely. There should be as few conditions as possible on voting rights in a democratic society. Voter ID would mark a sad return to the era of Jim Crow laws designed to disenfranchise minority voters.
Besides, identification requirements are already in place to prevent voter fraud, and they work. It’s crazy to risk punishment simply to submit one additional vote — which will almost never affect the election. That’s why it happens so rarely.
The Minnesota Court Information Office, operated by the state Supreme Court, said last month that there were 14 voter fraud convictions across the state in 2009, 11 in 2010, and 132 in 2011.With 2.9 million votes cast, that’s infinitesimal.
In Minnesota, there have been no convictions for voter impersonation, which is what the Voter ID amendment is designed to prevent.
None of that has stopped Voter ID proponents from repeating claims that “voter fraud” gave the 2008 Senate election to Al Franken over Norm Coleman because 1,099 felons allegedly voted.
In fact, there have been at most 156 convictions of felons voting illegally — not enough even to influence a razor-thin margin like the last U.S. Senate race — even if all 156 voted for the same candidate, which is unlikely and unknowable, given our sacred tradition of secret ballot.
Finally, the voter ID amendment is a blatant power grab by one political party (Republican) to increase its percentage of the vote by making voting more difficult for those who tend to vote for the other party (Democrat). The far-right American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has been pushing Voter ID nationwide. Former Secretary of State Mary Kiffmeyer is ALEC’s Minnesota state chair and the author of Voter ID legislation in the House.
If this were good for the state as a whole — not just one party — it would have bipartisan support.
This is a nationwide desperate effort by a party that is losing ground due to changing demographics. In many states, like Minnesota, it is taking an end run around the usual legislative process by going right to a popular vote — and amendment to the state Constitution. That’s because bad ideas have a better chance of passing among the uninformed electorate than they do in the Legislature, where they are tested by debate and balanced by the process.
You and I may not know many people who would have a hard time getting a photo ID, but those people exist. Many have been voting all their lives and would now find themselves ineligible.
When you think about all the legal voters who would not be able to vote due to Voter ID, the unnecessary, un-American and partisan nature of this voter suppression effort becomes clear.
Brett Larson is the editor of the Messenger.
This column was published in the Mille Lacs Messenger on Sept. 26, 2012.


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