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Voting amendment debate produces familiar questions — but no agreement on the answers

Dan McGrath and Doran Schrantz
MinnPost photo by James Nord
Voting amendment advocate Dan McGrath, left, and amendment opponent Doran Schrantz offered familiar arguments.

Folks walking away Thursday from Minnesota’s first public debate on the voting amendment likely left with as many questions — and entrenched opinions — as when they walked in.

That’s because they heard familiar arguments — and sharply conflicting opinions — about the measure's potential effects from Dan McGrath, head of the pro-amendment group Minnesota Majority, and Doran Schrantz, who represented a coalition opposing the amendment.

Schrantz argued that the amendment’s requirement that voters show an ID would disenfranchise many voters, such as students and the elderly. Opponents also fear the constitutional amendment would force dramatic changes to Minnesota’s election system, such as replacing Election Day registration with a provisional voting system, and significantly changing military and absentee balloting procedures.

“The more Minnesotans look under the hood of this ill-conceived amendment, they’ll see it’s an extreme makeover of our election system,” she said.

McGrath, however, argued that the amendment’s language is well-crafted and would not produce any of the unintended consequences cited by opposition groups.

He also pushed back hard against claims that the voting amendment would mean “horrible, apocalyptic things to our election system.”

“Everything else about the amendment that you’ve been hearing is wild speculation at best,” he said.

The familiar debate arguments echoed months of legislative bickering and hard campaigning as the two consistently came to different conclusions about the impact and meaning of the amendment’s wording.

Vote No Voter ID protesters
MinnPost photo by James Nord
Voting amendment opponents staged a rally and march before Thursday's debate.

They fielded a wide range of questions, including whether student ID cards would be accepted as identification, whether voting changes would be better handled by legislation rather than a hard-to-change constitutional amendment, and the extent of voter fraud or disenfranchisement possibilities.

Schrantz repeatedly noted Minnesotans’ support for the current Election Day registration system, and McGrath said it would remain unchanged.

McGrath focused on statistics outlining what he says is significant voter fraud in Minnesota and framed Photo ID as a “common-sense” solution.

Before the debate, voting amendment opponents staged a small rally protesting the ballot question. The evening’s activities came hours after two GOP senators filed an administrative complaint against Secretary of State Mark Ritchie for what they said was an inappropriate campaign against the amendment by an elected official.

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Comments (14)

McGrath: Amendment won't end vouching

That was the real news of the evening. Amendment proponents always make a big deal about the evils of vouching, but based on McGrath's statements yesterday, the amendment would have absolutely no effect on vouching. Here's what he said:

(1) McGrath said that all of the current statutory means of establishing residency would remain in place, including utility bills, college residence rosters, etc. (His line is: If the words aren't in the amendment text, it's only "wild speculation" that it will happen.)

(2) Toward the end of the debate, McGrath conceded that the amendment won't stop vouching. He said it would stop vouching for a person's identity but wouldn't stop vouching for residency.

He's half right, because the only thing vouching does is establish residency. McGrath mistakenly thinks that a voucher also vouches for a voter's identity, but that's not the case. Minn. Stat. 201.061, subd. 3(a), which governs vouching, states: "An individual may prove residence for purposes of registering by: . . . (4) having a voter who is registered to vote in the precinct, or who is an employee employed by and working in a residential facility in the precinct and vouching for a resident in the facility, sign an oath in the presence of the election judge vouching that the voter or employee personally knows that the individual is a resident of the precinct."

I can vouch for the person who lives under a bridge in my precinct. I don't have to vouch that I know who he is. I just have to vouch that I personally know *that* the individual is a resident of the precinct.

Yes, but...

If an Election Day registrant's residence is established only by vouching, whereas another voter's residence was verified through other means, have they been subject to substantially equivalent eligibility verification? Add that to your list of questions that the legislature, and quite possibly the courts, will need to answer if this proposed amendment passes.

Not Eligibility, Identity

Actually Max, eligibility is determined at the point of registration. To vote you just need to be in the registry. The registry is the means by which eligibility is verified. This November, all you need to vote is to tell them your name and if you're on the registry, you sign it, get your ballot voucher, and vote. If Voter ID passes, the following November you would need to present a photo ID before you can receive a ballot, not before you can register.

This is why Voter ID does nothing to prevent fraud. Nearly all fraud happens at the point of registration. No fraud in Minnesota has happened at "check in" in over a decade. Zero cases since 2000 according to News21, and they only studied from 2000 on. Voter ID only verifies that the person on the registry is that person, it doesn't verify the voter's eligibility.

The Other News

The other news of the evening is that McGrath outright admitted that the amendment would impact a "small number" of people. In the same sentence he defined "small number" as..

200,000 Minnesotans

THAT's the real takeaway from this debate.

On the floor

I'm on the floor laughing at the 200k number. This person cracks me up. According to my sources there are about that many people who need help dressing themselves. Made up numbers died with the birth of the internet. 200K, it embarrasses me that someone could think saying it makes it so. Obviously it is a lie, I only pray no one accepts this kind of lunacy.

Another important point

Was made by the Mankato Free Press (included in the Glean this afternoon): only one state used the amendment route to require photo id. That was the state of Mississippi. What great company to be compared with!

Yeah, Sort Of

Mississippi does not require the photo ID of seniors in nursing homes. Since we are not specifically exempting them, maybe we're worse?

Greatest Generation? Ah, who needs them any more anyway?

Does anyone expect "new" arguments to emerge?

Yeah it's the same arguments. You job dear voter is to figure out which one is right. McGrath et al are being completely disingenuous when they now claim that this amendment isn't designed to end election day registration and vouching. They've spent the five years selling this plan to their fellow Republicans by promising it will do exactly that because they imagine all kinds of fraud happening a result of these policies. If you went to a Kiffmeyer-Simon debate as I did two year ago you would have heard Kiffmeyer complain about busloads of voters being driven around and vouched for by all kinds of scoundrels. You would also have heard about the evils of fraudulent votes cast by election day imposters who's votes can't be taken back. McGrath has frequently claimed that vouching and fraud gave Franken and Dayton the votes they needed to win the elections. Now these people are claiming what? Everything they've been saying for the past five years is a joke?

Look, the amendment does clearly state that the only kind of ballot anyone who isn't already registered to vote, and doesn't have a valid state issued ID, can get, is a provisional ballot that will NOT be counted on election day. What's the point in vouching for a vote that's not going to counted? This is the strictest ID law in the nation, the ONLY thing that will get a normal ballot that will be counted on election day is a state issued ID with your current address on it. Proponents have been telling people for years that this will eliminate the need for vouching and election day registration, now they're denying this? Please. This amendment is specifically designed to end EDR and vouching.

In Person

A state-issued photo ID with a current address will get you a ballot, IF you are at your polling place on election day.

If you are in a Navy sub on election day, that ID is worthless.

If you can't leave your assisted living facility, that ID is worthless.

This will end absentee voting for everyone.

Mcgrath and Kiffmeyer are lying

Just go here and watch this voter ID video produced by We Want Voter ID: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p_4YzfgZoQw&feature=plcp

You have to disregard almost of the numbers provided because they are almost all wrong, but notice what happens to vouching when the 21st century ID program goes into effect- it simply disappears. And notice what happens at to election day registration, we join the majority of states that don't have it. At first they describe a magic system that simply populates your voter form automatically, but this assumes you're ID is current and doesn't really make any sense. By the end off the video they saying we need to get rid of EDR, and the ID system will do it. This is how these guys sold this program in the first place. Now they denying this program does what they promised is would do. They either lied before, or they're lying now.

"Familiar arguments" but that's not the point

Do the rules of journalism preclude pointing out that the arguments on one side are patently insincere? No one has disputed that there is no measurable voter fraud that this would address. It has two purposes, and two purposes only. First, to effect disenfranchisement that would disproportionately disadvantage one of the two major parties, permanently. Two, to deflect attention from the many, real and profound forms of voter fraud that currently ensure that there can be no change to the trajectory of immiserating the many for the benefit of the few. Mr McGrath and Ms Kiffmeyer are simply serving their paymasters, wittingly or otherwise.

Republicans covering all there bases

Besides trying to make it hard for some groups of voters, who may not vote Republican to vote, they are doubling down on their efforts. Using a firm called Strategic Allied Consulting, they are conducting voter registration in 7 states in a get out the vote effort. However, registration forms are being turned in that have problems such as multiple forms with the same handwriting, wrong data about the voters, including addresses and birth dates. In 11 Florida counties, "elections supervisors had found dozens of forms turned in by the party that had wrong birthdays or spellings of names that didn’t match signatures. In other cases, multiple forms were filled out in the same handwriting. One voter in Palm Beach County was registered to an address that is a Land Rover dealership”, according to a Los Angeles news article. This also, creates problems for people who were already registered, whose name were put on these form, in that now their signatures will not match or some of the data such as addresses, when they go to vote. Now this voter is challenged when they try to vote, and depending on the system, may find their vote will not be counted.
But what does this mean for Minnesotan's who will be voting on this amendment, next month? I think news like this diminishes the credibility of those pushing for this amendment, and the lengths they will go to for their party to win.
More details can be found in a Bill Moyers article, where I got this information from.
http://billmoyers.com/2012/10/02/fraud-allegations-cripple-gop-registrat...

Watch for the legislation

What makes this tricky is that the proposed amendment will require enabling legislation to put it into effect.

If the DFL wins control of the Legislature and the amendment passes, it will likely enact legislation that will interpret the phrase "substantially equivalent" and "valid governmnet-issued ID" very broadly to minimize the disenfranchisement of eligible but insufficiently documented voters. The GOP, if it retains control, will also likely interpret the termsin such a way as to have a minimal effect on military personnel but the maximum effect on transient, young, and low income voters.

Consequently, neither side can say definitely what the effects of the amendment will be, which is one reason to defeat it. The important thing is to understand WHY the Republicans are proposing it -- to disenfranchise certain eligible voters. That's reason enough to defeat it.

Other state's experiences matter

Looking at the impressive list of other states that have had their Photo ID laws challenged in court, and the many issues those courts have identified, makes me seriously lack the confidence McGrath projects.
Voter ID laws are on hold in multiple states, implementation has been rocky at best, and all along, no-one has produced evidence that the sort of fraud that is being alleged that Photo ID could 'solve' is happening.
It seems like a massive circus, a big bureaucratic expense, and a government intrusion all being foisted for a reason that is extremely hard to view as compelling.
I hope MN voters notice what's been going on in Pennsylvania and other states. Do we want to risk those messes here?