Voter-ID law makes sense for MinnesotaPublished 11:51am Friday, March 2, 2012
By Dennis Schminke
I am writing to offer a counterpoint to the Herald’s recent editorial (Voter ID law is unnecessary-Feb. 6, 2012). I disagree, and here’s why — let’s look at a few facts:
First, you are correct that most people approve the idea of voter photo ID. Both state and national polls show approval rates of 70 to 75 percent on this question.
Second, compared to other states, Minnesota has fairly lax voter registration laws. We are one of only nine states that allow election-day registration. Further, same-day registration can be achieved using relatively weak identification — a utility bill with a name on it, or being accompanied by another registered voter who is willing to ‘vouch’ for the prospective voter. After the 2008 election, more than 6,000 of the Postal Verification Cards sent to same-day registrants were returned as undeliverable — a strong indication that substantial numbers of people registered and voted but did not reside at the address they provided. In addition, we have seen recent news accounts demonstrating the ability of a third-person to create voter registrations under falsified names —no ID required. Each of these provides a direct path to voter fraud.
In addition, the Pew Center on the States recently released a report describing the sad state of voter registration rolls throughout the United States. Among the problems cited were an estimated 2.8 million people with active registrations in more than one state, and 1.8 million deceased persons on the rolls. Either of these problems can be exploited for voter-fraud purposes. A Voter Photo-ID requirement would prevent it.
Third, you assert that a Photo-ID requirement places an undue burden on a prospective voter. The question would be: A burden relative to what? A photo ID is already a requirement to drive, write a check, present a credit card, get on a plane, rent a movie or even to buy certain cold medications. As an accommodation to people with limited means, any law requiring a photo ID to vote also provides a way to obtain the necessary ID at zero cost. It is also worth noting that our Minnesota social services agencies already require photo-ID to obtain food assistance, child-care assistance or medical assistance.
Finally, small amounts of voter fraud are not necessarily insignificant. Close elections are not rare, and are an excellent reason to enhance the integrity of the election process. For example, Al Franken (D-Minn.) was elected as our U.S. Senator in 2008 by a margin of only 312 votes. In that election, there was credible evidence of multiple ballot irregularities. Closer to home, Sen. Dan Sparks (D-Austin) won in 2002 by a margin of seven votes, and Rep. Rich Murray (R-Albert Lea) won in 2010 by only 13 votes.
In setting public policy, we constantly balance competing interests. It is highly unlikely that a photo-ID requirement would be such a burden as to cause an individual not to vote. On the other hand, only a few fraudulent votes one way or the other would effectively disenfranchise the 1.2 million Minnesotans who voted for either Al Franken or Norm Coleman. Now, more than ever, citizens need to feel they can trust the results of an election. We enhance that trust by making sure that only eligible citizens vote. Enactment of photo voter ID accomplishes that goal.