Voters should have to show ID at polls

Published 11:32 am Friday, February 18, 2011

Letter to the Editor

Doug Groh, Mower County Auditor

Currently there are two bills being considered at the state legislature that, if passed, would require a voter identification card. Personally, I have no problem with a voter having to present a current identification card to an election judge. I suspect most of us when asked by an official for identification consider it a reasonable request; we expect it, and will easily accept it if this legislation is passed.

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I dismiss the argument that requiring voter identification will disfranchise the poor, aged and disabled. Both pieces of legislation will provide for a free identification card. This is in addition to existing state provisions that provide free or reduced fee ID cards. Also, I question the argument that voter ID is needed to eliminate the problem of voter fraud. Certainly, it will reduce the risk of voter fraud, though in Mower County voter fraud is rare. Since the 2008 election, Mower County has successfully prosecuted one case of felony voting and investigated six others for the same offense. We are aware of two other cases in which had there been a requirement to show voter identification may have prevented a voter from voting twice or in impersonating a sibling. The latter two cases are extremely difficult to prove under the current system.

While favoring the requirement of voter identification, the problem with the legislation is that they both provide for a process of voting called provisional balloting. A provisional ballot allows a person that is unable to show proper identification on Election Day to mark, seal and insert their ballot into a separate ballot box. The county auditor will count the provisional ballot only when the voter returns after the election to prove their identity and residence. The voter has up to seven days after the election to return to the auditor office and show proof.

Can you visualize the problems with public perception of our voting process that this process can create? If you discount the five recounts we have had since 2008, seven days to determine results is unacceptable.

Provisional balloting adds yet another layer and cost to the election process. Both bills complicate the election process adding additional procedures, requirements and technologies to run an election. We already have absentee balloting, Election Day registration, vouching and Election Day balloting. The administration of absentee balloting alone is increasingly demanding in requiring additional election judges, staff and resources.

The idea of requiring voter identification to vote on Election Day is a good idea. Just keep the process simple! The addition of a voter identification card along with a modified version of Election Day vouching will enhance the integrity of the election, yet continue afford the opportunity to vote for all.