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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Michael Nelson (DFL)

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GOP obstructs right to vote for seniors, students and the disabled

Saturday, May 21, 2011
Saint Paul, Minnesota –Republican pushed through an election bill today that will weaken Minnesota’s nation leading election system and disenfranchise seniors, students and the disabled. Despite no evidence of voter impersonation, the bill will spend millions in state dollars and force $28 million in costs on local governments to address a problem that barely exists. “Voting is a constitutional right and this bill will take that right away from thousands of Minnesotans," said State Rep. Ryan Winkler (DFL – St. Louis Park). “Seniors, students and veterans, and disabled Minnesotans will all be disenfranchised and Minnesota taxpayers will be asked to foot the bill.” Despite no evidence of voter impersonation in Minnesota, this proposal would require a photo ID to vote, threatening voting rights of more than 100,000 Minnesotans who do not carry a government issued photo ID or possess an ID with their current address. Seniors, students and people with disabilities are likely to be the most adversely affected. “I know many senior citizens who believe civic participation means you vote and they do so diligently, but not all senior citizens have a driver’s license,” said State Rep. Steve Simon (DFL – St. Louis Park). “We shouldn’t create a barrier that makes it harder for grandma to get to the polls and vote.” “These proposals would fence out seniors, students, overseas military personnel and countless others from their constitutional right to vote,” said State Rep. Mike Nelson, the DFL lead on the Government Operations and Elections Committee. “From the 94 year-old senior to college students and the disabled, it’s clear this risk is real. This bill is trying to solve a problem that doesn’t exist, and will dismantle the bipartisan reforms that have given Minnesota the highest voter participation and cleanest elections in the nation.” Although the bill comes with a big price tag, it doesn’t actually address an actual problem. Although some have made claims of voting fraud, little evidence has been presented to show they exist. According to the Citizens for Election Integrity, there were only 38 cases of ineligible voting in 2008. Of these, all were instances of felon voting, which a voter ID proposal would not address. 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.” “This bill has a huge price tag to solve a tiny problem,” said Simon. “It will cost taxpayers millions of dollars and cost many seniors, students, and disabled Minnesotans their right to vote.” As troubling as the merits of the bill are, so to was the process the bill was finalized. Winkler noted that significant changes were made to the bill without any public notice so the public could weigh in. “The voter ID bill is supposed to be about the 'integrity of the voting process,' yet the process for voting on it had no integrity,” said Winkler. “It is unacceptable that the public was not allowed to weigh in on a bill that affects the voting rights of every eligible voter in Minnesota.”