Who are these voters who have no I.D.?
By Owen Riess
Owen Riess is an author and Vietnam-era veteran. He is also a source in MPR News' Public Insight Network.
I think Mark Ritchie is just playing politics. Minnesota's secretary of state is a Democrat who opposes a voter I.D. requirement; he estimates that more than 215,000 Minnesotans lack either identification with a current address or any identification at all. Ritchie and other opponents of requiring voters to have I.D. say the rules will make voting harder for seniors, college students and people who are homeless.
I spent Easter with extended family in Rochester, Minn., and I had the opportunity to talk with some senior citizens. I think Ritchie fails to realize that all of our senior citizens collect Social Security income. The Social Security Administration is making a transition away from sending checks in the regular mail. To receive Social Security income, a person will have to have a bank account that will accept direct deposits from the Social Security Administration. To get a bank account, a person has to have a valid identification card. Among the senior citizens I visited with, even those who could no longer drive had a valid state I.D. card.
Has Ritchie never taken an elderly person to the doctor? Not only do patients need their medical card; they may be required to show proper identification, as well.
I'd like to see Ritchie produce a senior citizen in Minnesota without valid identification.
The opponents also point out that some college students don't have proper identification. Again, I say: Produce one. Produce an actual live registered college student in Minnesota. One who is a Minnesota resident, without proper identification. One with no student loans — because he or she would have no bank account without proper identification — no driver's license, no insurance, no vehicle and no job. Please show me a Minnesota resident college student who cannot buy student-discounted books in the college bookstore because he or she has no valid identification.
Here, however, Ritchie and the opponents may have some argument, if you take out-of-state students into consideration. A student may have been here for years attending a Minnesota college or university, have lived in Minnesota the whole time and still have a driver's license and vehicle registration from another state. This student may have a difficult time getting a valid Minnesota I.D. without becoming a resident of Minnesota.
This does not mean that they cannot vote; they just have to vote in their state of residence, or become residents of Minnesota.
Finally, let's discuss the homeless. Although it is sad that we even have to discuss the homeless in the present tense, there are two types of homeless people. Those who are homeless because of unfortunate circumstances in their lives, and those who choose to be homeless. The first would still need a valid identification card. To receive any kind of social welfare, from medical assistance to food stamps, they have to have valid identification.
Those of the second type, having chosen to live outside the mainstream, probably have no intention of ever participating in what we would call normal society, and don't care about voting.
The argument against producing a valid identification card at the polls is lame at best and ridiculous at its core. The proposal allows for the poor to get a free identification card. Anyone who wants to vote can get proper identification. The vast majority of Minnesotans will have no problem producing a valid I.D. at the voting booth.
If the requirement eliminates any questioning of who voted and adds integrity to the process, it makes you wonder whom Ritchie and the opponents are trying to protect.