Others’ opinion: Voter ID: Don’t waste valuable time on political football

The Free Press, Mankato
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Republicans in Minnesota released their apparent top priority at an appropriate time just before the Super Bowl. That’s because photo ID for voting legislation is as big a political football as you can get.

Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka says his caucus will introduce another photo ID bill this session, knowing full well the DFL House is not going to go for this election-year ploy.

In 2012, Minnesota voters rejected the photo ID constitutional amendment by 52 percent. Some 1.5 million Minnesotans agreed our system of voting works just fine without people having to show a photo ID. There are a number of other requirements for voting, including having proof of residence and in some cases having someone vouch for you.

The system is not in need of repair. Cases of voter fraud in Minnesota have been minuscule. Minnesota’s system of counting and tracking votes and verification includes paper trails that many other states do not have.

DFL Rep. Ron Lesch, chair of the House judiciary committee, correctly calls out the resurrection of the voter ID issue as a political ploy by Republicans to generate enthusiasm for their base.

Gazelka argues Minnesotans didn’t understand the referendum vote in 2012 and with the election meddling of the last election, he believes the issue should be considered again.

But Gazelka and the GOP hurt election security by withholding some $6 million in federal funding last year. While the GOP eventually released the funds after what appeared to be a useless discussion of peripheral issues, Secretary of State Steve Simon said there was real harm done by the delay in funds.

There’s another round of federal funding for election security coming, and the Senate Republicans will once again be able to hold up the funding making red herring arguments for political gain.

The Legislature faces a host of important policy issues like gun violence and school safety and must pass a critical bonding bill to maintain our infrastructure. Time spent on photo ID laws will be time wasted for these other critical issues.

Photo ID laws tend to make it more difficult for disaffected groups, immigrants, people of color and even the elderly to vote. We should be making it easier for people to vote in a fair and secure election, not making it harder through ineffective and oppressive photo ID laws.

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