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Should Minnesota require photo ID's to vote? (Wrap-up of 5/2-5/6 online debate)

Posted at 8:55 AM on May 6, 2011 by Michael Caputo

Optional election upgrades and controversial voting back-up plans grabbed the attention of those debating a proposal to require photo ID's from Minnesota voters.

But at the heart of the discussion was whether people trust the state's electoral system and whether its worth spending the money to improve it.

We've heard from those at the State Capitol on voter photo ID (The GOP-led House passed it, Gov. Mark Dayton will likely veto it and the measure might go directly to voters as a constitutional amendment)

Here's what others had to say in an online debate on the Voter ID idea

A matter of trust, a question of cost

(MPR Photo/Nikki Tundel)

Those who supported the photo ID bill said ensuring election integrity should overcome cost worries.

Jennette Gudgel, who said she's been an election judge for over 20 years, thought it curious that "some folks are concerned about the 'high cost' of the most important right in our society but think nothing of the cost of more tangential items in our government."

Jeffrey Maas - Hamline Law graduate who studied election law and has served as an election judge - took exception to the notion that elections lack safeguards.

"I'm on the front lines every election day with a large group of other judges working a long day to make sure that our elections are properly safeguarded. We strive to ... ensure that those who are eligible to vote get that chance, as well as to make sure that those who are ineligible are turned away."
Others who opposed the Voter ID bill say the pricetag far outweighs the tiny amount of fraud it might stop. Especially with the state facing a nearly $5 billion deficit.

"I still don't see how this is a pressing enough issue, at this moment in time, to be worth the money that it will inevitably cost," wrote Nicole Erickson.

Going digital, only an option

(MPR Photo/Nikki Tundel)
The cost figure that gets the most attention is $23.3 million. That's the start-up amount that county government (which administer elections) would have to cover if the Voter ID system were enacted, according to the state office of Management & Budget estimate.

More than $19 million of that cost would pay for replacing paper poll books with electronic ones.

Modernization of elections was a key reason to support the Voter ID bill, said one proponent. On the other hand, a push from paper to technology pushed someone who was undecided about photo ID's to oppose it.

But we learned that the millions for modernizing at the polls are optional. During a May 2 hearing in the House Ways and Means Committee, sponsor of the Voter ID bill Rep. Mary Kiffmeyer, R-Big Lake, told the committee that the electronic poll books are not mandatory. "There is no mandate," she said.

That caused alarm for Rep. Jean Wagenius, DFL-Minneapolis, who wondered if that would create an unequal voting system where some counties used paper and others used modern technology. Max Hailperin, a professor of computer science at Gustavus Adolphus College and who has studied electronic poll books, said in the MPR online debate, that the text of the House bill lays out different standards for election judges who use paper books and those who use electronic ones.

Provisional ballots: A safeguard or a headache?

Should the Voter ID bill become law and someone can't produce photo verification at the polls on Election Day, they can still cast what is known as a "provisional ballot."

Under the proposal, the person voting this way would have to produce the necessary paperwork (the photo ID, a birth certificate) in five business days for the vote to count. "Minnesota would join 44 other state that utilize provisional ballots, ensuring that no one, including those without a photo ID, will be turned away," said Andy Cilek, president of the Minnesota Voter Alliance in his opening statement.

Kathy Bonnifield, associate director for the Citizens for Election Integrity, said introducing provisional ballots to the state would bring new headaches to the voting system.

That stoked a discussion on the method. Defenders say those provisional ballots that are rejected are because the voter never returns with the proof of residency - "the voter abandons them." Others argued that five business days is hardly enough time for many to find the proof

Most interesting to note in the comment by Jeffrey Maas - the duty of reviewing provisional ballot would conducted by judges at each election polling place. That's a departure from the change enacted with absentee ballots. After 2008 U.S. Senate recount, centralized the review of those ballots.

THE DEBATE IN FULL - The Assertion: Minnesota law should require that people show a photo ID before they can vote.

Monday: Opening Statements

Tuesday: Rebuttals

Wednesday: Rebuttals

Thursday: Closing Statements

May 2011
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