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How — and why — I made my decision on the voting amendment

When I first read about Minnesota’s voter ID constitutional amendment I thought, no brainer. Then I started my investigation.

Cary Griffith

When I first read about Minnesota’s voter ID constitutional amendment I thought, no brainer. Most of us already have photo IDs, and given the voting hangovers some of us still nurse after Bush v. Gore or Franken v. Coleman, any law that could ensure more certitude in the voting process was good. I felt pretty certain I’d be voting “yes!”

I just needed answers to two simple questions: How much will implementing this new law cost, and how much voting fraud happens in Minnesota?

I emailed my representative, Kurt Bills, for more information.

Kurt promptly responded:

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$1.5 mil for the free ID is projected. I think the actual cost will be lower though.

During 2008, the last presidential election year 38,000 postal verification cards were returned as undeliverable…no such person or address.

For more information he referred me to www.protectmyvote.com and referenced “a felon study found at the Minnesota Majority web site. www.mnmajority.org.”

When I sought Kurt’s clarification on the 38,000 returned cards (were all these voter fraud?), he never responded, so I consulted his other sources.

‘Tip of the iceberg’

ProtectMyVote declared “Minnesota now leads the nation in convictions for voter fraud with 200 recent convictions of ineligible voters.” It claimed these were “just the tip of the iceberg.”

The second site referenced a study that identified 1,099 felons who cast votes in the 2008 election. It then turned these votes over to county prosecutors, which resulted in 177 convictions. There weren’t more convictions, it claimed, because in order to convict the voters had to know they were ineligible.

ProtectMyVote.com also declared the cost of implementing the new law was significantly higher than Kurt Bills’ estimate: “between $10 and $12 million initially and $2-3 million per election cycle …,” while additional costs could drive the overall expense to “$40 million.”

Since the only certain numbers I’d seen on Minnesota voting fraud were extremely low, I forwarded Kurt Bills’ response to the Secretary of State’s (SOS) office, seeking clarification. Claire Wilson, voter outreach director for SOS sent me an answer the length of a fortnight. The Cliff Notes version: After examining 41,785 returned cards, the SOS found only a handful that weren’t returned for legitimate reasons, which it sent to county auditors who are “required to determine if the voter was eligible to vote.” The less than handful the auditors still questioned were turned over to county attorneys for “further investigation and possible prosecution.”

An election-integrity survey

Following the 2008 election, Citizens for Election Integrity surveyed county attorneys regarding convictions for election fraud. That survey provided some sobering perspectives.

  1. It is a felony to commit voter fraud in Minnesota and our County Attorneys must investigate all instances of real or perceived voter fraud.
  2. In 2008 there were 1,531 voting fraud investigations that resulted in 26 convictions.
  3. One of the reasons noted for so few fraud convictions, particularly among those identified as felons, were “false positives, because the individual either had a gross misdemeanor or had successfully completed probation and had their civil rights restored prior to voting … .”

Point three gave me another reason the Minnesota Majority’s 1,099 investigated felons only resulted in 177 convictions; perhaps they were misidentified or they had done their time and their voting rights were restored?

Finally, and perhaps most damning, the voter ID law will do nothing to prevent felons (and other ineligible voters) from acquiring a photo ID and voting.

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The upshot

In summary, my investigation revealed:

  1. Implementing the voter ID law will cost taxpayers somewhere between $12 million and $40 million and will create another government solution that must be fed an additional $2 million to $3 million every election cycle.
  2. Minnesota already has in place an excellent system – involving state and local elected officials – for identifying and prosecuting what little election fraud exists.
  3. The voter ID system will do nothing to prevent election fraud in the future.
  4. Voting fraud is a felony in Minnesota, an already serious deterrent.

My thought: Spend the $12 million to $40 million on roads, bridges, education and Minnesota’s more pressing needs.

I will be voting “No!” on the voter ID amendment, and I hope my fellow Minnesotans do, too.

Cary Griffith, of Rosemount, is the author of “Opening Goliath” and “Lost in the Wild.”

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