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Minnesota’s voter ID amendment: a Trojan horse with a surprise inside

It seems to me what you’re doing is trying to sell your amendment to the voters, to mislead them into believing that this is just about saying who you are on election day, when, in fact, your bill is a Trojan horse to do a lot of other things to disrupt and cause chaos in Minnesota’s election. — State Rep.  Ryan Winkler

This is just voter suppression. They dress it up in a pretty gown and put lipstick on it, but it is voter suppression. — Charles Samuelson, executive director of the ACLU of Minnesota.

Mary TreacyMary Treacy

Sometimes an issue is so overwhelming that we — as individuals and as a society — just can’t grapple with the enormity of what has overtaken us. Most of us want to think that our leaders are ethical, independent thinkers, responsive to the real needs of their constituents and attendant to the pubic good. We don’t expect or read between the lines for hidden agendas. That’s how the Trojan horse of Voter ID got through the virtual gates of the Minnesota Legislature in April.

As usual, a quick overview of constitutional history is useful. At both the federal and the state levels, the trend throughout the nation’s history has been to eliminate barriers to voters’ rights — barriers that included religion, race, sex, illiteracy, poll tax and residency requirements. Energy has been focused on registering voters and getting them to the polls.

Naively uninvolved

In recent times many Minnesotans who care about participatory democracy have naively remained uninvolved as the Legislature joined the well-orchestrated drive to disenfranchise voters, even as the Trojan horse of Voter ID requirement, driven by forces from within and outside the state, proceeded with relentless stealth to passage by a Legislature that didn’t care, didn’t understand, chose to ignore or quietly applauded the long-term goals.

The proposed amendment to the Minnesota Constitution may or may not pass in November. That depends greatly on the interest and involvement of groups and individuals who are prescient enough to anticipate what comes next – or who are following what’s happening in Florida right now.

The immediate challenges for voter-rights advocates is to inform those who will cast their vote in November that there is an intended surprise embedded in the proposed amendment. As described in a May 30 memo from ACLU, the ballot question put to the voter “conveniently fails to mention that the prospective voter’s ID must be government-issued.”

Applies to ‘all voters’

Further, ACLU admonishes that prospective voters must understand that “the plain language of the amendment says it will apply to in-person voters, but says nothing so definite about absentee voters. … Nevertheless, the ballot question says it will definitely apply to ‘all voters.’ And in the guise of applying ‘substantially equivalent’ identification and verification procedures to all voters, it may well end Election Day Registration.” 

For the short-term the issues are voter registration and public awareness of the long-term intent and inevitable consequences of passage. Enough for opponents of the Voter ID amendment – and the electorate – to take on for now. Still, there is need to develop strategies to cope with the possibility of passage.

Loathsome as it is, the prudent course for whose who care is to invoke the “Fool me once, shame on you – Feel me twice, shame on me” principle.  As Benjamin Disraeli is reputed to have observed, “I am prepared for the worst but hope for the best.”

Mary Treacy writes about open government, Northeast Minneapolis, and whatever else seems important on her blog, Poking Around with Mary.


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Comments (12)

  1. Submitted by mark wallek on 06/08/2012 - 09:38 am.


    A grab at power. An attempt to control the electorate. What’s next, a number on my forearm? With the advent of corporate aligned government humans can expect that their individual vote will matter less and less as the non human interests work thru their loyal representatives to accomplish profitable ends. When Ronald the first said “Government should be run like a business” he was sounding the deathnote of democracy.Government is not at all like business, and never will be. This “voter fraud” issue is one red herring that is a consequence of corporatization, along with asset siphoniong to offshore (a genuinely traitorous act) and establishment of a “rich folks only” candidate selection process. We are, unfortunately, looking at a very ugly future.

  2. Submitted by myles spicer on 06/08/2012 - 02:19 pm.

    What is more scary

    While a rational discussion with most voters would scuttle this absurd amendment, the same force that likely got Scott Walker reelected will again come into play. Money! that is how our elections and referendums are now being decided — especially with the power of TV and the internet. This bodes poorly for the election process now and into the future.

  3. Submitted by Doug B on 06/08/2012 - 02:23 pm.

    You have it backwards

    Voters are disenfranchised if unqualified voters are allowed to vote. With a democracy comes some responsibility – like planning ahead to get registered to vote.

    Who doesn’t have a picture ID? You need one to drive, travel by air, cash a check, buy alcholic beverages, for some cold remedies (behind the counter meds), and at the Dr’s office – just to name a few.

    I think it is a conflict of interest to allow anyone to vote who receives government assistance, or doesn’t pay any taxes. They have ‘nothing in the game’ execpt to vote themselves more and more entitlements.

    • Submitted by myles spicer on 06/08/2012 - 02:51 pm.

      you have it backwards…

      Voters are disenfranchised ONLY IF unqualified voters are allowed to vote. In fact, this is not happening in Minnesota. In 2008, 117 voters were listed as “ineligible” out of about 2.5 million. This is the classic case of a solution in search of a problem. Why put 2,500,400 voters to an expensive and unreasonable process for the 117 who voted in error (most were felons, some of whom did not even know they were ineligible). This is plainly absurd.

      • Submitted by Doug B on 06/08/2012 - 03:35 pm.

        A small number of people would be inconvienced

        ” Why put 2,500,400 voters to an expensive and unreasonable process for the 117 who voted in error ”

        Expensive and unreasonable? I would say that 98% of those 2,500,400 voters alread have a drivers license or picture id or a passport. So very few people would be inconvienced.

        Your statistic is all wrong. 117 listed as ineligible is according to the way things are now verified. There was no real audit done, so we don’t know how many people actually voted illegally.

        • Submitted by Joyce Denn on 06/09/2012 - 02:57 pm.

          Small number inconvenienced?

          Assuming you are correct about 98% having a valid driver’s license (I’d like to see the evidence for your claim) that would leave more than 50,000 people disenfranchised. What is worse, disenfranchising those 50,000+ people would do nothing to solve the problem of former felons mistakenly voting before their rights are restored, which is the only kind of “fraud” substantiated in Minnesota.
          Throughout the history of this nation we have had to fight for the rights of “undesirables” such as African Americans and women to exercise their constitutionally guaranteed right to vote; the Republican party and its corporate sponsors are trying to take this nation backward, to a place and an era when only the “right” sorts of people could cast ballots.

        • Submitted by Eric Paul Jacobsen on 06/10/2012 - 02:09 pm.

          More honest voters than dishonest ones would be turned away.

          According to the study “Citizens without Proof,” published by the Brennan Center for Justice, the following citizens do not have government-issued picture IDs:

          18% of citizens age 65 and above

          16% of Hispanic citizens

          25% of African-American citizens.

          The BCJ also noted that only 66% of women with eligibility to vote have IDs with their current name.

          Look it up yourself:

          As it turns out, that’s quite a large number of people, certainly much larger than the number who have ever tried to vote fraudulently.

          On the other hand, voter “irregularities,” upon closer examination, usually turn out to be nothing at all (two people may actually have the same name), or clerical error, fraud perpetrated by an election official and not by a voter at all, or fraud by absentee ballot. None of these problems would be prevented by a picture-ID requirement. The number of people who actually try to commit fraud by impersonating somebody else – the only kind of fraud a picture-ID requirement could prevent – is extremely small, dwarfed by the number of people who are killed by lightning every year.

          Examine the evidence here:

          Actually, the comparison to the number of lightning fatalities comes from my own research. I compared the cases of so-called “voter fraud” gathered by the Republican National Lawyers’ Association (RNLA) from 1997 to 2011 with the cases of people killed by lightning during a time period of about the same length (1990 to 2003). The number of cases of “voter fraud” was 311, including, by my count, only six cases of actual voter impersonation. The number of cases of people killed by lightning was 756. The number of people who voted from 1997 to 2011 in federal elections only (a number I also found on the Internet) was 784,835,782. Divide six by that number, and you get a voter-impersonation fraud rate of 0.00000000764 percent, or 7.64 ten-millionths of one percent. (I think I got that right. Please count my zeroes for me. Thank you.) Of course, the RNLA says that their list is only “partial” with new cases added every month. But their rate of discovery has been awfully slow so far, and I don’t expect it to increase.

          The proposed voter-ID amendment would turn away more honest voters than dishonest ones away from the polls – and by more, I mean more by at least four orders of magnitude, by my most charitable estimate. That’s a policy so bad that no responsible elected official who cares about democracy should even have contemplated it, much less voted for it. It’s so bad that I don’t believe the citizens of any state would ever vote for such a policy if they knew the truth about it. Sadly, the voter-fraud fraud has a big advertising budget, and in this brave new Citizens United world, a well-funded lie can jog several around the block in the time it takes truth to tie its sneakers.

    • Submitted by Pat Berg on 06/09/2012 - 11:20 am.

      Wow, those are some great ideas!

      Anyone who receives government assistance can’t vote? Great! That takes care of all those pesky Senior citizens “living off the dole” with their Social Security and Welfare!

      And as for that whole tax thing? Well heck – let’s just reinstate the poll tax! Who needed that old 24th Amendment anyway?

      Problem solved!

      (Sarcasm hat off now, in case anyone was wondering)

      • Submitted by Carol Ashley on 06/10/2012 - 08:20 am.

        Government assistance

        Not only does it exclude seniors on Social Security, it would exclude farmers who get government subsidies, and maybe even government workers, though their pay isn’t generally thought of as assistance. Would it exclude all those who work in the oil industry or just those who own the companies. One could go on and on until most of the population would be disenfranchised.

  4. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 06/11/2012 - 09:27 am.

    About 200,000

    You have to remember, it’s not just an ID requirement but a specific government issued ID. Passports, Military ID’s, student IDs, etc. will not count because they aren’t issued by the State, and don’t have verified addresses on them. Furthermore, even if you have a valid state issued ID, unless you’re registered 30 days in advance your vote won’t be counted on election day, you’ll get a “provisional” ballot, and no one has even tried to explain when that ballot will be counted.

    The Secretary of State estimates that around 200,000 Minnesotans’ currently lack the valid IDs they’ll need to vote under this amendment. I don’t why so many people seem to think they’re flashing their IDs all the time, I can count the number of times I have to show my ID each year on one hand. I don’t even get carded at bars anymore. Anyways, there are a lot of people who don’t need an ID, many seniors for instance don’t drive anymore and have long since let their drivers license laps. meanwhile all of the felons that illegally voted in the last two elections had perfectly valid IDs and would have been allowed to vote anyways. Advocates have not produce a single example of voter fraud that would have been prevented by ID, after two exhaustive recounts efforts, and countless months of trying to find such fraud.

    You can worry about what 40 or 50 felons are doing on election day if you want, and if you want to stop them voting entirely all we have to do is let the Secretary of State cross reference the Felon roles. I’m worried about the tens of thousand of valid and legal “provisional” ballots that are going to be sitting around in county offices uncounted after every election.

  5. Submitted by Kenneth Kjer on 06/12/2012 - 10:38 am.

    voter ID

    OK folks, I want you to vote for this amendment, but were not going to tell you anything about it until after you approve it. Then we will tell you, how works, how much much it cost, who it will affect, and Oh by the way after you approve it, you will have to abide by all the rules we make up later.

  6. Submitted by James Freemon on 08/12/2012 - 02:30 pm.

    Voter Supression Amendment

    Minnesota VOTER ID Ammendment…An expensive solution, in search of a nonexistant problem, proposed by schemers without the votes to get their crappy bill passed on its own merit.

    I’m retired a US Air Force officer with 4 years of my service spent in the US Marines. My home of record was Illinois during my entire period of service. I had a valid Illinois Drivers license and was registered to vote in DuPage County, IL, but I spent the entirety of my Active Duty service outside that State, much of it outside the Country while on military duty. Had a Voter ID Ammendment like our proposed Ammendment been in effect throughout the Nation, I would not have been able to vote, but I would have still had to go to war at the pleasure of our government.

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