Seniors, students and veterans disenfranchised under voter ID proposal
Saint Paul, Minnesota – With a $5 billion budget deficit yet unresolved, House Republicans passed a voter ID proposal today that increases spending while weakening Minnesota’s nation-leading election system. DFL legislators opposed the bill, citing their support for Minnesotans’ right to vote and a desire to focus on balancing the state’s budget.
“Voting is not a privilege like renting a car or cashing a check. It is a fundamental right that cannot be taken away by the government. That is what this bill does," said State Rep. Steve Simon (DFL – St. Louis Park). “This is a tiny problem, with a huge price tag.”
For years Minnesota has led the nation in voter participation and election integrity. Despite no evidence of voter impersonation in Minnesota, this proposal would require a photo ID to vote, threatening voting rights to as many as 25% of Minnesotans who do not carry a government issued photo ID. These additional restrictions will cost local governments $28 million in the form of an unfunded mandate, which is likely to come from local property taxpayers.
“Raising property taxes and increasing budget problems are the wrong priorities and wrong direction,” said State Rep. Michael Nelson (DFL – Brooklyn Park). “I suspect Minnesotans would prefer we focus on real problems facing our state instead of wasting our time and money on a problem that does not exist.”
Although the bill comes with a big price tag, it doesn’t actually address a big problem – or any problem. Although some have made claims of voting fraud, no evidence has been presented to show they exist. A good case in point is the 2008 U.S. Senate recount, where Norm Coleman’s campaign spent more than $3 million looking for election fraud. Fritz Knaak, Norm Coleman’s recount attorney said, “We were looking for fraud and we just didn’t see it.”
Given that a voter integrity problem is non-existent, State Rep. Winkler (DFL – Golden Valley) called the legislation wasteful spending at its worst.
“This is like building a bridge to nowhere, except worse,” said Winkler. “Not only would it waste taxpayer dollars, it would jeopardize voting rights to thousands of seniors, students, and veterans.”
Non-partisan estimates indicate at least 144,000 Minnesotans do not possess a drivers license or state ID. Seniors, students, veterans, the disabled and people living in shelters and group homes are likely to be most affected.
“For a senior living in a nursing home or a battered woman in a shelter this requirement represents a significant barrier to voting,” said Simon. “We should not add obstacles to voting for Minnesotans who wish to express their fundamental right to vote.”