When you place a constitutional amendment on the ballot, you better be sure it does what it claims. All the i's must be dotted and the t's crossed. Unfortunately, a constitutional amendment on the November ballot, which would restrict the voting rights of hundreds of thousands of eligible Minnesota voters, does not meet that standard.
Proponents of this amendment claim that our election system needs fixing, and that a photo ID requirement, engraved in our state constitution, is the answer. Unfortunately, the problem this flawed amendment seeks to fix, wouldn't actually be fixed with this amendment.
I agree that electoral systems must be open to reform and modernization. But placing these reforms into our constitution should only be done with broad bi-partisan support and careful study balancing the gains against what will be lost. The voter ID amendment, in contrast, was placed on the November ballot by a party-line majority vote in the legislature.
Technical electoral changes, such as requiring specific forms of photo ID to be shown before being allowed to vote, are best done by legislation - not a constitutional amendment. Consider this, in today's telecommunications era, technological advancements are occurring at lightning speed. A photo ID is likely to be overtaken quickly by more effective, fool-proof systems. Future legislatures should not have their hands tied by an antiquated provision in the constitution. Rather, they should be free to institute better, more updated voting methods.
In addition, according to respected studies, this amendment (if adopted) would require an expensive overhaul of Minnesota's electoral system, costing $50 million or more to implement when you add up all the costs to state government, local governments and individuals. For example, Rochester officials have estimated that it could cost city taxpayers $120,000 extra per election cycle for additional election judges, equipment, training and staffing. The city of Moorhead has put a placeholder of $65,000 into its budget for next year and Mankato projects needing an additional $300,000 for local implementation.
I am also concerned that this amendment would essentially end election-day registration for the over 500,000 Minnesotans who depend on same-day registration to cast their ballots in Presidential elections. Among those individuals would be our out-of-state military personnel, college students and many elders who live in long-term care settings. Worse, this constitutional provision would introduce a complicated new two-step system of provisional ballots, thereby requiring a voter without an ID to first cast a provisional ballot and then return after the election to the courthouse to show their photo ID so their ballot can be counted. That could negatively affect many thousands of rural residents.
As part of its election coverage, The Journal has asked representatives of groups supporting and those opposing Minnesota's two constitutional amendments to present their arguments for and against the issue. Today, Dan McGrath of Protect My Vote, and Tim Penny, representing Our Vote, Our Fuutre,, present the pros and cons on Minnesota's Voter ID Amendment.
In crafting the amendment language, the state legislature neglected to provide exemptions for vulnerable populations like seniors in nursing homes, the disabled, and those experiencing homelessness in a challenging economy. And they failed to provide provisions to protect the votes of our military troops defending our freedoms overseas.
Minnesotans from every corner of our state have come out in opposition to this amendment, including leaders of faith organizations and non-profits, as well as election administrators, elected officials and editorial boards. Wherever you turn it seems another organization or individual is warning us of the costs, complications and consequences if this amendment is put into our constitution.
As a result, voter support for this unnecessary amendment has been plummeting steadily in the past few weeks. As Election Day draws near, it seems that the more Minnesotans learn about this proposed constitutional amendment, the more they dislike it.
Ultimately, this amendment leaves too many unanswered questions. In my view, this amendment poses serious consequences for all sorts of Minnesota constituencies, most especially our students, our overseas military personnel, seniors in care facilities and rural regions. And, it would be costly to implement for our cities and counties, who are already struggling to keep vital services in place. For these reasons, I urge Minnesotans to vote NO on the voter ID amendment on Nov. 6.
Tim Penny serves as a co-chair of the Our Vote Our Future campaign to defeat the voter ID amendment on the November ballot. He is president and CEO of the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation. He is a former Democratic member of Congress and a former Independence Party candidate for Governor.