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‘unSpinning’ Mark Ritchie’s Voter ID claims

Peter Nelson
Peter Nelson

This year’s shared text at Itasca Community College is “unSpun: Finding Facts in a World of Disinformation.” I recently delved into the book to prepare to participate in the college’s first event related to the book. My presentation focused on spin in the health-care debate, but I understand there will be a number of other presentations, including one on the Voter ID amendment.

Minnesota’s Secretary of State Mark Ritchie offered up a prime example of spin on the Voter ID amendment in a recent MinnPost Community Voices piece,  “Minnesota voting amendment would change much more than you might think.” 

unSpun’ itemizes a number of warning signs that suggest you may have entered a spin zone; here’s the first: “If it’s scary, be wary.” As the authors explain, “raw appeal to fear is often used to cover a lack of evidence that a real threat exists, and should alert us to take a hard look at the facts. Are we being warned or deceived?”

Writing in MinnPost, Ritchie sounded the alarm that the Voter ID amendment will “eliminate the right of Minnesotans to register and vote on Election Day as we have done for 40 years.” Minnesota is one of nine states that allow Election Day registration and 500,000 Minnesota voters (over 15 percent of those voting) tend to do so in major elections. 

A scary scenario

Ritchie paints a scary scenario where all of these voters would need to cast a provisional ballot which would not be counted until their registration was verified by multiple government databases. His office has suggested that this process could take up to 10 days, or more. If true — and here’s the frightening part — election results might not be confirmed for weeks. 

Mark Ritchie

Obviously, Minnesotans would not tolerate this delay. Thus, it makes little sense that legislators drew up and voted on constitutional language with this result in mind. Nonetheless, Ritchie has been making this scary claim across the state for months. As the authors of ‘unSpun’ direct us to ask: Are we being warned or deceived?

Ritchie insists that the amendment will without question lead to this worst-case scenario. He never admits that there may be alternative ways to interpret or implement the amendment language. But assuming the amendment passes, it’s hard to imagine that he will stick to this story. Indeed, assume Republicans and Democrats eventually come together to pass a law implementing the amendment in a way that retains the current Election Day registration and voting process. Will Ritchie stand by his current position and argue the law is unconstitutional and then refuse to implement it? Doubtful.  As I’ll discuss below, expect his views to evolve after the amendment passes.

A more reasonable interpretation

There is a much more reasonable interpretation of the amendment that does not require upending the current voting process. And based on conversations I’ve had with the chief authors of the amendment, the language is indeed not meant to radically change the current process. For nearly every voter, including those registering on Election Day, the amendment simply requires you to show a photo ID to vote.

Here is the disputed language from the amendment:

“All voters, including those not voting in person, must be subject to substantially equivalent identity and eligibility verification prior to a ballot being cast or counted.”

According to Ritchie, this language requires Election Day registrations to be “verified” just the same as regular registrations before their ballot is cast or counted.  This would require crosschecking with multiple government databases and possibly mailing out non-forwardable post cards. To be fair — something Ritchie appears unwilling to reciprocate — this is not an entirely unreasonable reading of the amendment. The registration process is certainly part of what can be called “eligibility verification,” two words in the amendment. 

However, there are verification requirements and procedures election officials must follow when processing registrations. And then there are verification requirements for voters when voting. The more reasonable interpretation of the amendment language is that it centers on what voters must do to verify their identity and eligibility when they go to vote, not what state officials must do to verify registrations.   

Indeed, the amendment language is all about the process applied when people are actually voting and what is required of them when they vote. And there is no mention of the registration process.

Minnesota Supreme Court jurisprudence directs that amendment language adopted at the same time “must be construed together, as a whole.” See State ex rel. Marr v. Stearns, 72 Minn. 200 (1898). The amendment adds two new paragraphs to article VII, section 1 of the Minnesota  Constitution — labeled (b) and (c) — and they are clearly meant to be read together. Paragraph (b) opens with “All voters voting in person” and paragraph (c) opens with “All voters, including those not voting in person.” For people voting in person, paragraph (b) creates a requirement on voters to present a photo ID. The disputed language in paragraph (c) recognizes that not all people can or will be voting in person with a photo ID to verify their identity and eligibility. Some people may mail a ballot or vote absentee. Still others may be unable or unwilling to present a photo ID and, consequently, submit a provisional ballot on Election Day. Paragraph (c) provides the flexibility to address these situations. Instead of requiring all voters to provide the same photo ID verification information required in paragraph (b), paragraph (c) allows certain voters to verify their identity and eligibility with something that is “substantially equivalent” to a photo ID.

Thus, the disputed language is actually all about providing the necessary flexibility to accommodate different types of voting and special voter circumstances while at the same time maintaining a high standard for verifying identity and eligibility of all voters when they vote.

Drafters intend language to provide flexibility

And this is exactly what the chief authors of the amendment had in mind.  Here’s how Rep. Mary Kiffmeyer explained the language on March 8, 2012, before the Government Operations and Elections Committee.

“We don’t expect our military voters to come home from Iraq to show their photo ID. We understand that. We understand there are others who are unable to leave their home, and substantially equivalent allows us to have the necessary court-approved flexibility. In other words, in front of the U.S. Supreme Court or other state supreme courts when there have been some necessary accommodations for those kinds of unique circumstances we have been able to make those allowances, and that’s why substantially equivalent verification is a very important phrase … .”

Sen. Scott Newman also explained the language at a March 1, 2012 Senate Finance Committee hearing. He clarified, “This phrase does not mean identical. Rather it is intended to give the Legislature some leeway in determining what type of photo ID, proof of identity, or other future technology that would be required to prove a voter is eligible to vote and recognizes the difference between in-person and not-in-person voting procedures.” 

Drafters say Election Day registration will remain

The authors also spoke clearly to the question of whether the language ends Election Day registration. After Ritchie testified that this is “a proposal to replace Election Day registration with provisional balloting,” Kiffmeyer responded, “After these repeated statements, I think it’s really important to speak to this. There is nothing in this constitutional amendment that does away with Election Day registration. It does not.

Similarly, after Beth Fraser — director of government affairs for the Office of the Secretary of State — suggested the language would end Election Day registration and delay election results, Sen. Newman responded, “While Ms. Fraser is sitting here, either she misspoke or I misspoke. But I do want to correct the record in terms of provisional voting, or I should say same-day registration. It was never my intent to have every new same-day registrant vote provisionally.  If they show up with the proper identification, their vote should count.”

‘Great weight’ given to Legislature’s interpretation

Fortunately, if there are ever legal disputes over the language of the amendment, a Minnesota court will give far greater weight to the Legislature’s interpretation than the slanted view of the Secretary of State. When the 2013 legislative session begins, the Legislature will have the first chance to interpret and apply the language by passing legislation to implement the amendment.  The Minnesota Supreme Court, according to prior caselaw, should give “great weight” to the interpretation embodied in the Legislature’s implementing legislation. In State v. Peterson, 159 Minn. 269 (1924), the court explained, “the legislative exposition of a constitutional provision, following closely upon the adoption thereof, may well be supposed to result from the views which prevailed among the framers of the provision.”

Judges might also look around to laws in other states for guidance. If they do, they will find language from Montana that allows an election judge to rely on a photo ID or some other identification “to verify the voter’s identity and eligibility.” Additionally, Missouri’s voter ID requirement reads: “Before receiving a ballot, voters shall establish their identity and eligibility to vote at the polling place by presenting a form of personal identification.”  This language is remarkably similar to the Minnesota amendment and is clearly focused on what voters must provide to the election judge to verify their identity and eligibility when voting.

Don’t expect a suit over ‘substantially equivalent’

That’s not to say we should expect a lawsuit over the meaning of “substantially equivalent identity and eligibility verification.” (Yes, other lawsuits are certainly possible.) The only reason this language is in dispute today is because it’s a key part of the opponents’ strategy to sway people against voting for the amendment. To defeat the amendment, opponents need people to believe their myth that the amendment will radically change the way we vote and disenfranchise voters. But if the amendment passes, opponents’ interpretations of the amendment will likely evolve to allow for the more reasonable interpretation I’ve just outlined. 

To be sure, amendment opponents won’t be filing lawsuits to make sure their scary prophecy becomes reality. Instead, we’ll see opponents working with supporters to implement the amendment in a way that avoids radical change and garners broad bipartisan support. That will require a law that (1) upholds our current Election Day registration process; (2) protects easy access to the ballot for all voters — especially for military, low-income and elderly voters; (3) minimizes burdens on local governments; and (4) allows a measure of flexibility for certain voters who don’t vote in-person or are unable to present a photo ID. 

The end result of this new law: Minnesota voters will have greater confidence in their election system. Voters will have confidence that everyone who wants to vote can vote and, when they do vote, their vote counts.

Peter J. Nelson is the director of public policy and associate general counsel at Center of the American Experiment.

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Comments (51)

  1. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 09/27/2012 - 07:33 am.

    …..assume Republicans and Democrats eventually come together to pass a law implementing the amendment in a way that retains the current Election Day registration and voting process….

    Yes, well unicorns all around would be nice, also.

    When the driving momentum behind voter ID is to disenfranchise the loosely-connected citizens because they might not be overwhelmingly in favor of the agenda of the Republican party, it’s hard to see a bi-partisan solution being developed.

    The root of this is a deep hatred of bipartisanship. If there is a really close election, shouldn’t the winner acknowledge the size of their opposition was almost the size of their support and steer a more middle course in recognition of the almost-equally-divided nature of the voters?

    No, the purpose of this is to WIN an election and then govern like a dictator implementing your pre-election ideas on the basis of a 50%-plus-one win.

    The implementation, goal and effect of this legislation is fundamentally anti-bipartisan.

    • Submitted by Thomas Swift on 09/27/2012 - 01:46 pm.

      “No, the purpose of this is to WIN an election and then govern like a dictator implementing your pre-election ideas on the basis of a 50%-plus-one win.”

      Erm, you do realize you’ve just described Dayton’s administration, don’t ya Neal?

      • Submitted by Bill Gleason on 09/27/2012 - 03:58 pm.

        Hardly, Mr. Swift.

        Or did you not notice that the Minnesota House and Senate are in the hands, currently, of the Republican party.

  2. Submitted by Pat Berg on 09/27/2012 - 08:03 am.


    The simple fact that the language of the proposed amendment allows you and Ritchie to each write entire (and differing) articles on “what it means” is indication enough that there is far too much wiggle room for interpretation in the language. Which means that NO ONE can predict how things will actually go if the amendment passes.

    So we take a system that has been working well for a long time and replace it with a system that will be the subject of lawsuits and courtroom haggling for who knows how long? Talk about a formula for disaster. And for a “problem” that doesn’t even exist.

    The language of the amendment is too wishy-washy to be put into effect over our elections. Vote NO!

    • Submitted by Thomas Swift on 09/27/2012 - 01:51 pm.

      “The language of the amendment is too wishy-washy to be put into effect over our elections”

      Pat, if I may borrow a quote from a leading light in leftist circles, “We have to pass the amendment to know what’s in the amendment”

      • Submitted by Bill Gleason on 09/27/2012 - 04:23 pm.

        The amendment is rather short, Mr. Swift

        At least compared to recent health care legislation of which there was much hew and cry because of its length.

        The problem is not the length, but the deliberate ambiguity. Even the author of the legislation could not, or refused, to answer simple questions about the legislation.


        • Submitted by Thomas Swift on 09/27/2012 - 08:15 pm.

          Oh, *snap*

          “Even the author of the legislation could not, or refused, to answer simple questions about the legislation.”

          Whereas Nancy Pelosi was a veritable fountain of information….riiiight.

          • Submitted by Bill Gleason on 09/28/2012 - 07:46 am.


            And Nancy Pelosi has what to do with this, Mr. Swift?

          • Submitted by Pat Berg on 09/28/2012 - 08:31 am.


            MinnPost, this is precisely the kind of thing I had in mind when I commented on your recent renewal of the rules. That is, the frustration of having rules announced, but then seeing them repeatedly not be enforced against certain posters.

            The other day I highlighted a comment by this poster which was gratuitously insulting to another poster. A behavior which is against the newly-emphasized rules.

            And now here he is attempting to highjack the thread away from the subject of the article.

            It is extremely frustrating when there is this very visible lack of even-handedness on how the posting rules are enforced. Particularly when it’s occurring so soon after the promise to do a better job.

            Do you not understand how this can serve to undermine your credibility?

            • Submitted by Steve Titterud on 09/29/2012 - 02:26 pm.

              I’ll add my voice to Ms. Berg’s…

              …- do you not understand how this undermines your credibility ??

              I have nearly thrown in the towel on MinnPost because of the angry, puerile, non-germane diversions of the poster in question here. It would be different if this represented a serious attempt to weigh in on the subject at hand – i.e., actually contribute with a little light, rather than mere heat – even if sharply worded. But the immediate subject matter is merely a trampoline for this kind of poster, who seems to get some kind of immature gratification from seeking to irritate others.

              MinnPost seems like such a sucker !! Who needs it ??

              I fully realize you may not post this comment, based on your subjective rules – no matter HOW SORELY it is needed. But let me assure you that this comment cannot possibly make you look as bad as you look already allowing people to use your site to throw sh*t against the wall.

              • Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 10/02/2012 - 10:42 am.

                Thank you, Steve

                “oh snap” and sarcastic reference to a person having literally nothing to do with the topic of conversation is a perfect example of being off-topic. While I’m not ready to throw in the towel on MinnPost, I had hoped that a renewal and refinement of the moderation rules would result in reduced trolling. I’m ok with posts of mine not seeing the light of day (which has happened before and after this refinement) if I can see where they might step out of the bounds of what is allowed to be posted by others. I can understand a sarcastic remark or even a tiny bit of rudeness if it’s on topic. But I share Steve’s frustration at seeing a single line quip with no relevance popping up when it can’t even be claimed that the poor posting manners are hidden within a wall of text.

  3. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 09/27/2012 - 08:58 am.


    The reason why worse or bad case scenarios are legitimately considered at this time is that they could have been resolved at the time the legislature proposed the amendment. The legislature chose not to, and that’s not a good sign. The purpose of voter ID is to create barriers to voting by various groups who tend to vote Democratic. That being the case, it also follows that a Republican legislature, should we have one for the next two to four years, would enact enabling legislation which would in various ways further their partisan goals. The reason those measures aren’t being talked about by Republicans now, and the reason why they didn’t include them in the constitutional amendment they drafted, was that those partisan goals would have been made evident, They could not hide behind some nonexistent issue of fraud, an issue which voter ID, would not in any event, address.

  4. Submitted by Christopher Moseng on 09/27/2012 - 09:01 am.

    “If it’s scary be wary”

    Feel free to turn that “spin-zone” rule of thumb on the people promoting this radical change to our State Constitution any time. They’re the ones seeking to alter the status quo, after all.

    • Submitted by Andrew Richner on 09/27/2012 - 09:53 am.


      Yes. Let’s not forget that Voter ID is totally superfluous and unnecessary without the “scary” scenario presented by conservatives of criminals, illegal immigrants, and those who “should not” be enfranchised voting en masse and thereby throwing elections. The argument for Voter ID is more spin than Ritchie’s argument against it is.

  5. Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 09/27/2012 - 09:06 am.


    I’m not worried about individuals showing up to polling places and voting when they shouldn’t. It’s a rare and insignificant bogeyman. That we know that felons vote means that our failure is in not educating our voting population, not that we need more restrictions to voting. I’m more worried about systemic voter fraud, such as voting machines being provided (and accessed!) by partisans (see, e.g., Diebold). I’m ashamed that we claim to uphold the beacon of democracy and we have one of the lowest voter turnouts in the world! So we want to make it harder to vote????

    C’mon. Not everyone is being fooled into believing that “free” ID’s are free–to anyone, let alone individual voters. As soon as grandma has to purchase a copy of her birth certificate (presuming she wasn’t born at home or somewhere that the records got destroyed or before records were kept), she’s had to pay to vote. Do taxpayers pay her back? Hey–we’re struggling to get the haves to pay for basic infrastructure so they can continue doing business, and you think that adding a tax to pay for everyone to get an ID is a good idea? Especially if some genius decides that we ought to do it like in WI, where you can get a free ID that’s ONLY good for voting? (Because taxpayers would be paying more for the same piece of plastic that also allows you to drive??? Can I cash a check on that???) I’d like a free ID, too, because my driver’s license doesn’t indicate that I’m not a felon. It doesn’t say anything about being a citizen, either. At least I took half a day off to update my address. At least I COULD.

    No amount of reasonable-sounding articles are going to lull some of us to sleep. It’s really too bad that so many Americans are already asleep at the wheel.

  6. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 09/27/2012 - 09:22 am.

    Reasonable sounding articles?

    I have to say that this article which so carefully avoided the political and historic context of voting restriction members particularly in the way they are structured to avoid equal protection and due process concerns, struck me as about as reasonable as ignoring that guy behind the curtain in the Wizard of Oz once he had been exposed to public view. These measures have a long an unsavory history in our country. In rereading the article, I was struck by the cluelessness of it’s last lines: “Minnesota voters will have greater confidence in their election system. Voters will have confidence that everyone who wants to vote can vote and, when they do vote, their vote counts.” How could anyone reasonably think that measures that restrict voting by the elderly, and minorities, by young people and our serving military overseas, increase rather than tragically diminish our confidence in the integrity of our elections?

  7. Submitted by Solly Johnson on 09/27/2012 - 09:56 am.

    Voter Fraud

    There is much more opportunity for voter fraud with the use of voter machines than there is with people voting illegally by not showing identification.

    Many nations in the world have elections on Sunday when people have more opportunity to go to the polling places. If we really want people to participate in elections, there is no reason that we can’t have polls open on weekends during an election year to make it convenient for voters. Also, to protect the integrity of elections, use paper ballots. Right wingers aren’t concerned about cost of the voter ID amendment, so they can’t use the excuse about cost that weekend elections and paper ballots would entail.

  8. Submitted by Andrew Richner on 09/27/2012 - 10:03 am.

    One key word

    Spin aside, there’s one key word in the text of the ballot question to which we should all pay attention. Ritchie’s article elaborated on what this could mean for his job, but even if none of those changes that he sees come about, even if it doesn’t cost anybody anything, the text still reads “require.” That means nothing more or less than that a voter who meets all eligibility requirements to vote can be denied that right for failing to meet the photo ID requirement. Adding any additional requirement to vote disenfranchises someone. Period.

  9. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 09/27/2012 - 10:09 am.

    How About “Reverse Spinning the Voter I.D. Amendment”?

    “If it’s scary, be wary?” Scare tactics are EXACTLY the techniques our “conservative” friends have been using to sell the need for voter I.D. (and everything else on their agenda) for at least the past decade.

    If the “conservatives” couldn’t scare the voters on their side, they’d never be able to win anything.

    Let’s back up a few paces here.

    The ONLY reason this constitutional amendment was proposed in the first place is because our “conservative” friends could not, through our normal legislative processes, manage to pass it (and, as far as I’m concerned, a 2/3 override majority is not too much to ask if we’re running the risk of disenfranchising a large group of our state’s citizens).

    In the end, the real effect of this constitutional amendment will not be known until the courts weigh in on what the language actually means.

    If the necessary “enabling legislation” is created and passed by a Democratically-dominated legislature, it will nullify what most “conservative” voters hoped for in voting for the amendment: the disenfranchisement of an entire class of non-white, non-European voters, whom they (wrongly) believe to be using their votes to influence politicians to provide them with benefits which allow them to live what those “conservatives” presume to be profligate (i.e. inner city urban) lifestyles – laying around doing nothing while living off overly-generous government benefits that those “hard-working” (white) citizens have to work far too hard to pay the taxes which pay for them.

    And the “conservatives” will sue to try to force the legislature to pass legislation that preserves their original intent.

    If the necessary “enabling legislation” is created and passed by a Republican-dominated legislature, and signed by our governor it will preserve that original intent (while it’s proponents claim to be doing a whole host of other admirable-sounding things).

    And the Democrats will sue, likely in federal court to protect the right of all our state’s citizens to vote without unreasonable impediment.

    Of course with the Roberts court likely to soon consider and perhaps wipe out large parts of the 1964 federal voter’s rights act, it’s possible the federal courts will no longer stand in the way of “conservative” efforts to disenfranchise voters.

    But in the end, the reality is that when we’re talking about the mechanisms and processes of voting, the proper venue for such considerations is the legislature, itself. Since our state and federal constitutions are overwhelmingly protective of the rights of all our citizens to vote, we should not write a major attempt at restricting the rights of voters into the constitution, thereby introducing a major item of incongruity.

  10. Submitted by Gerald Abrahamson on 09/27/2012 - 10:26 am.

    National ID card supported by conservatives

    The need for a uniform national US identity card has finally been acknowledged. Conservatives want a “Voter ID”–or so they claim. Yet it makes no rational sense to have fifty (or more) *different systems* when a single national US identity card could be produced and issued at minimal cost. The card would be issued at no cost to voters, thus making it constitutional. Retailers *alone* suffer billions in losses every year due to identity theft. Having a “known valid” identity card would save retailers a lot of money, so the costs of the system are easily recovered just through their losses not incurred–and they could easily justify bearing the cost of the entire system due to their savings. Issue a new national identity card every 8-10 years, and there is no rational reason to NOT require that card be presented in order to vote. It could replace a large number of other identify cards currently issued, so it would save state and local govt money as well. With electronic voting, voters could vote anywhere–because their ID card tells the system “who is voting”–and the ballot presented only contains the races in which the voter is allowed
    to vote (which is based on their residence). Thus, the time and cost of setting up polling places is reduced as well. It is neither hard nor expensive to use a tablet to vote–and they are available everywhere. And a tablet could display pictures and other info regarding the candidates if the voter wanted that info.

    How it would work is very simple. First time, create the identify card. Put the person’s picture on the card *and* in a national photo ID database. This is the same type of system used for a driver’s license, so it is universally accepted and legal in the US. When the card is swiped, the picture from the database is sent to be verified. If it matches, bingo–valid ID. If it does not match, fraud has been uncovered.

    • Submitted by Mark Stromseth on 09/27/2012 - 11:06 am.

      You’re sadly mistaken

      Your apparent belief that a ‘National ID’ will be the panacea to eliminate all this hand-wringing over Voter ID is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of how both Voter ID and a National ID would work.

      Among other things, regardless of what Republicans may claim about Voter ID, it will cost a lot of money; money which they claim neither the State, nor cities and counties have available to spend. Likewise, a National ID would cost many billions of dollars each year; money which we already know that States do not have.

      Secondly, in order to obtain either of these types of nonexistent ID, one must provide other forms of identification to prove who they are and thus get the ID. But that’s not possible, since many records have been destroyed over time, and some records just don’t exist. At the same time, for all records that do exist, there is no way to verify their authenticity: every one of them can be, and has been forged. There is no way to go back in time and verify them, either.

      Because of that, neither Voter ID or a ‘National ID’ system will work.

      These are the types of critical thinking skills that all Republicans lack, and that’s what gets them into trouble.

    • Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 09/27/2012 - 11:32 am.

      Why not Just Do A Tattooed Number or RFID Tag on Each Citizen?

      First, it’s a huge bugaboo among the “Christian” “Conservatives” that such a universally attached personal ID would be a form of the “mark of the beast” from the Biblical Revelation to John. Many of them would refuse to participate in such a program for that reason alone.

      Many (although probably fewer) would refuse to participate in a national ID card for the same reason.

      Finally, if you don’t appreciate the current reality of how easy it is to produce fraudulent ID cards of every variety, nor the extreme amounts of time and expense it would take to continuously and accurately maintain and update such a national database,…

      nor the opportunity for national voter purges and the difficulty of discovering and correcting such skulduggery, especially if it happened shortly before an election,…

      nor the reality that such a national database would be a constant target for hackers for all sorts of nefarious political (and other) purposes,

      then you’re completely clueless as to how much this would cost and how likely it would be to create far more problems than it solves.

  11. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 09/27/2012 - 10:47 am.

    Achieving GOP goals

    The fact is, DFL legislators proposed a number of measures which would have addressed concerns about voter integrity Republicans claim to have, concerns which by the way, are not even addressed by voter ID. All of them were rejected by Republicans for one simple reason; they would not have had the effect of discouraging voting by people who have a tendency to vote DFL. Partisan advantage, not election integrity is the purpose and goal of Republican voter ID initiatives.

  12. Anonymous Submitted by Anonymous on 09/27/2012 - 11:00 am.

    Center of the American Experiment arguing for non-nonsensical policies created in Republican dream sessions? Imagine that! But they’re NOT a tax-exempt arm of the Republican Party.

  13. Submitted by Steve Titterud on 09/27/2012 - 11:00 am.

    The spin-meister author’s argument is laughable…

    …as it relies on the oh-so-high-minded intentions of Mary Kiffmeyer and company, who rammed this thing through the legislature.

    Are you kidding?

    If there’s one thing that’s obvious, it’s that the this whole outfit, including the Center for the American Experiment, do NOT state what their real intentions are.

    Disenfranchise numerous voters, or at the very least, place their franchise at risk, and at great expense, in order to solve a nearly non-existent problem of voter fraud??

    It couldn’t be more clear that this amendment, and it’s apologists, such as Mr. Nelson here, seek to eliminate voters from future elections – and it’s NOT fraud they seek to eliminate, either. They know what they are doing, we know what they are doing, and yet they persist in their ludicrous claims, as if we’d swallow it. They must have quite a laugh when in private.

    I find the chicanery of this advocacy column inconsistent with the general quality of authorship on MinnPost.

    I see that one of the heroes of the Center for the American Experiment, Bill Bennett, is coming to Minneapolis to rouse the troops in October. They have a tiered seating price schedule, and for a mere $2,500 you can get a seat in the “Morning in America” Row.

    Here’s another peek at the kind of views that animate the Center for the American Experiment, from a column on its site by one of its “policy fellow”….”I’d take rule of law over the right to vote any day”.

    I dare say most Minnesotans, if truly aware of the stakes here, would take the right to vote FIRST, then use IT to affirm the rule of law. But these folks like it the other way around.

  14. Submitted by Amy Bergquist on 09/27/2012 - 11:07 am.

    Spinning amendment text

    “The more reasonable interpretation of the amendment language is that it centers on what voters must do to verify their identity and eligibility when they go to vote, not what state officials must do to verify registrations.”

    That interpretation is only reasonable if you do not take grammar into account. Even Justice Scalia uses grammar to interpret text. The proposed language is: “All voters, including those not voting in person, must be subject to substantially equivalent identity and eligibility verification prior to a ballot being cast or counted.”

    “Must be subject to” means that, contrary to Nelson’s suggestion, the voter is not the agent doing the verifying. If I am “subject to” a strip search, that does not mean that I go into a changing room and search myself. Similarly, election judges or other state officials must “subject” voters to verification of their identity and eligibility before those voters may cast a ballot.

    And it’s nice to quote amendment sponsors who say, “We understand there are others who are unable to leave their home, and substantially equivalent allows us to have the necessary court-approved flexibility.” Rep. Kiffmeyer in that March 8 hearing even asserted that filling in the last four digits of your social security number on the exterior of your absentee ballot envelope “is already compliant with this Constitutional Amendment.”

    But that horse has left the barn and it’s too late to look to these statements to determine “legislative intent” (if doing so is even tenable for a constitutional amendment enacted via a popular ballot). The Minnesota Supreme Court in LWV v. Ritchie already addressed what the “substantially equivalent” government-issued photo ID requirement means: “all voters would be required to produce valid government-issued photographic identification, or something that is substantially alike in signification or import or that is virtually identical to a valid government-issued photographic identification.” With this precedent to contend with, I do not think a court could conclude that the last four digits of a social security number are “substantially equivalent” to valid, government-issued photographic identification.

    And some of the rose-colored-glasses arguments that amendment supporters make are simply implausible. There are Minnesotans who, for religious reasons, have a valid state-issued ID that does not have a photograph. See Minn. Stat. 171.071. I’ve heard amendment supporters assert that those IDs will be sufficient. Under what “deference to the legislature” canon of construction would a Minnesota court conclude that an ID without a photograph is “photographic identification”? (Certainly, the amendment would face a challenge under the 1st Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. But a court finding the amendment unconstitutional would also decide the consequences, and could decide to throw out the entire amendment because of this constitutional infirmity.)

    Those who complain about “activist judges” should vote against this amendment – courts will ultimately have to reconcile the amendment text with the federal Constitution and the enabling legislation and determine in concrete terms how our election process will work. This is not a task that we should lightly hand over to the least democratic branch of government.

  15. Submitted by Max Hailperin on 09/27/2012 - 11:29 am.

    Go back to the “21st century”…

    If you want to see what the proponents’ idea of eligibility verification is, see this video:

  16. Submitted by Sean Olsen on 09/27/2012 - 11:53 am.


    One need only look at the legislative solution that Republicans proposed last session to see that the idea that they seek a solution that “avoids radical change and garners broad bipartisan support” is pure fantasy.

    • Submitted by Clayton Haapala on 09/27/2012 - 06:28 pm.

      Yes, we have sample legislation

      You are right, Sean. The author lost credibility on how the amendment will be addressed in law when he fails to mention anywhere that voter ID legislation had been proposed (and vetoed) already by this legislature.

  17. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 09/27/2012 - 12:35 pm.


    What we have here is a lawyer’s defense, of the Voter ID, itself an exquisite example of the lawyer’s art. The problem from a lawyer’s perspective is obvious enough. The desire of Republicans to limit and discourage voting by groups who tend to vote Republican flies in the face of about a hundred years of political history, and legal precedent. It’s an argument that has both been lost and has been discredited. So how do Republican lawyers go about winning previously lost and discredited arguments? They reframe them. They pretend that their goal isn’t now what it has always been in the past, to limit voting by people who vote against them. Instead, a case is put together, one without evidence, but argued in a public forum where evidence isn’t required. In this case, it’s voter fraud. Now it’s obvious enough that no evidence exist to any significant degree in Minnesota or throughout the country, but when you have lots of money for advertising, the lack of evidence doesn’t matter. Then you prey, as the above article does on the lack of historical knowledge of the public. An interval has passed, new generations have grown up, since the days when voter suppression was blatant in this country. So the carefully constructed, legalistic articles are carefully constructed in which any mention of historical context is carefully avoided. The articles, are pedantic, serious in tone, and just a bit purposefully dull, to avoid evoking the memories of police dogs in Birmingham there to terrorize our fellow Americans from exercising their rights. We are nice Minnesotans aren’t we? We write in the civil confines of the, don’t we? We are very, very solemn, are we not? How could it be possible that we are political inheritors of Bull Connor or the legal successors of John W. Davis?

  18. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 09/27/2012 - 01:58 pm.

    I think….

    the reaction to this appeal to reason by frustrated leftists should pretty much confirm the end of “the debate” has arrived.

    This much needed, common sense amendment will pass; it will be banged around every left leaning court that can be found; then it will be implimented.

    Let’s stick a fork in this one.

    • Submitted by Bill Gleason on 09/27/2012 - 04:08 pm.

      You may prefer to stick a fork

      in this piece of legislation that resembles a dog’s breakfast, but that is not going to happen despite your predictions otherwise.

      As Supreme Court Justice Alan Page pointed out, it is a bait and switch operation that involves far more than photo ID.

      See you at the ballot box.

      And should attempts to defeat this legislation fail, yes indeed there will be court action to prevent its implementation. And there will be court action in many other states, e.g. Pennsylvania, to prevent this deliberate attempt at disenfranchisement by the right.

      The recent tanking of Mr. Romney’s campaign gives me hope that people are waking up to the agenda of the right and that they will, ultimately, say no to this thinly veiled attempt to tilt the political table.

      • Submitted by Bill Gleason on 09/27/2012 - 07:03 pm.

        Wisconsin Top Court Won’t Hear State Voter-ID Case Before



        [added later]

        Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen last month asked the high court to delay enforcement of the decisions rendered by a pair judges in the state’s capital city, Madison, earlier this year pending appellate review. He also asked the seven-justice panel to immediately hear his challenges and bypass the state’s intermediate appellate court.

        In separate rulings issued today, the high court denied Van Hollen’s requests.

        “There will be no voter ID law in effect for the presidential election on Nov. 6,” plaintiffs’ lawyer Lester Pines said in a phone interview. His Madison firm represented the League of Women Voters Wisconsin Education Network in one of the cases.

        Dane County Circuit Judge Richard G. Niess, who presided over the League case, in March ruled the law requiring otherwise eligible voters to present a government-issued photo identification before being allowed to cast their ballots was an unconstitutional burden.

        • Submitted by Thomas Swift on 09/28/2012 - 06:34 am.

          Very good Bill!

          That is indeed an example of leftists using friendly jurists to hinder implimentation I appreciate your attention. Can you give us any other examples of the sorts of desperate leftist machinations we might expect?

          • Submitted by Bill Gleason on 09/28/2012 - 07:55 am.

            I guess it is a terrible thing, Mr. Swift

            for what you called “leftists” to use the court system in an attempt to have Jim Crow laws repealed? Or remove prohibition of mutli-racial marriages?

            When the evil leftists use the Court system for such purposes it is an attempt to “hinder implimentation [sic]”, but when right wingers do it, this is purely on the basis of their belief in what we used to call in civics class “strict construction.”

            As another commenter has already pointed out, in this case what you call “leftists” should properly be described as constitutionalists.

            • Submitted by Thomas Swift on 09/28/2012 - 09:09 am.

              With all due respect, Bill

              The Supreme Court has already weighed in on Voter ID…it it constitutional….”mutli-racial [sic] marriages” are not.

    • Submitted by Richard Schulze on 09/27/2012 - 04:29 pm.

      Ah yes, tiny barriers. You don’t have a birth certificate because your mom was a teenager who gave birth to you outside of a hospital. Or you’re 80 years old and born before hospital births were the norm.

      25 dollars is a pittance, well and the 115$ for a new birth certificate, and 15$ for a new social security card, and bus fare and several hours of your life during working hours which you don’t have because you work pay check to pay check.

      Easy barriers.

      Now people who have slight engagement in the process might also be discouraged but even then it hits the poor harder.

      If I’m a 19 year old with car who doesn’t care all that much, I still might go to the polls because my friends/family/girlfriend or whoever is doing it. I have an ID, it takes me 20 minutes.

      Now, if I’m a 19 year old with no car because I’m poor and therefore no license, I’ll watch my friends/family/girlfriend go to the polls but I won’t vote there.

      A rich apathetic person is still much more likely to vote under this law than a poor one.

  19. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 09/27/2012 - 02:47 pm.

    Reason appeals

    There is no evidence of voter fraud. Therefore making policy based on the assumption that voter fraud exists, isn’t reasonable. On the other hand, we know that some people find it more difficult to vote than others. It therefore stands to reason that fewer of those people will vote if we make voting more difficult. We also know that voter suppression has been a tool of the right for decades, and that this is just another form of it.

    I am not confident that the voter ID amendment will be overturned by the courts. For one thing, there is some precedent to support the other side. For another, we have gotten in the very bad habit of putting men and women on the court who have been politically vetted for their views, and who are generally without political experience.

  20. Submitted by rolf westgard on 09/27/2012 - 06:26 pm.

    vote suppression

    The voter ID Amendment is pure and simple a clever and legal way of suppressing votes for the Democratic Party. If Democrats allow Republicans to get away with it, they have only themselves to blame.

  21. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 09/27/2012 - 07:28 pm.


    As is so often the case, Mr. Swift knows not whereof he speaks.

    To be opposed to this proposed amendment to the state constitution does not constitute being “a leftist.” One might instead be merely a “constitutionalist.” Voting is not a privilege, like driving a car or buying booze.

    It’s perhaps THE most fundamental right in a society that claims to be at all democratic, so people who call themselves “conservative” ought to be especially vigilant about attempts to restrict that basic right. Placing barriers in the way of someone’s right to vote, using the rationale that the society needs protection from voter fraud, is a lie, and itself a fraud from the get-go when there’s no demonstrable voter fraud, especially of the type that would be affected by this legislation. Thus, those who claim to be “conservative” ought to be opposed to this sad and painfully obvious ploy to restrict the exercise of the franchise.

    Mr. Franken, for example, was elected by a little over 300 votes, according to a process that even Republicans thought rigorous. That’s a tiny victory, but if it’s legitimate – and while I wasn’t here at the time, several panels convened to go over the votes with the proverbial fine-toothed comb appear to have agreed that it was – then all else since then is merely the whining of children who didn’t get their way.

    The proposed amendment is NOT “…much needed,” except as a partisan means to suppress the numbers of people who are likely to vote against the party that sponsored the legislation in the first place. It’s similarly NOT “…common sense,” unless that “common sense” is of the autocratic variety. I won’t have any trouble voting myself – I have plenty of ID – but the amendment isn’t about me, or what I might do. It’s yet another example of the “haves” making war on the “have-nots” by doing what they can to make it difficult for the “have-nots” to exercise any influence at all on public policy via the ballot box.

    A true conservative would be embarrassed and ashamed. Mr. Swift appears to be neither.

    • Submitted by rolf westgard on 09/28/2012 - 03:03 am.

      Not thinly veiled or shameful

      IMO this ID amendment is not a “thinly veiled” attempt as Bill Gleason suggests; it is a very clear effort at voter suppression. No reason for conservatives to be embarrassed or ashamed by a clever and well planned effort to advance their cause. Any courts that allow it should be ashamed.

    • Submitted by Thomas Swift on 09/28/2012 - 06:28 am.

      Ray, I understand your frustration

      ….insuring the integrity of everyones votes will no doubt put much of the leftist agenda on the back burner; perhaps for good. But as I would assume you know, the Supreme Court of the United States has ruled that voter ID is constitutional. Yes sir, I am all about the constitution.

      • Submitted by Bill Gleason on 09/28/2012 - 07:48 am.

        “the Supreme Court of the United

        States has ruled that voter ID is constitutional.”

        As the old saying goes, Mr. Swift, the devil is in the details. And the details are a constitutional matter.

        • Submitted by Max Hailperin on 09/28/2012 - 05:11 pm.

          Indeed… here’s a detail to note

          The Supreme Court of the US, in ruling the Indiana law constitutional, took note of the fact that it did not apply to absentee voting. The Court noted that this provided elderly voters (in particular) an alternative. This contrasts with the proposal that all voters, including those not voting in person, must be subject to substantially equivalent identity verification. Whether that contrast rises to a constitutionally significant level remains to be seen. But it is certainly not a given that the analysis of Indiana’s law would apply equally to what is proposed here.

  22. Submitted by Henk Tobias on 09/27/2012 - 09:52 pm.

    Much wiser voice than mine..

    ..have already spoken. I would only ask the writer, when he says that he spoke with the authors of the legislation, was he attending an ALEC conference? If not then he was not talking to the authors, he was talking to the authors’ stenographers.

    This is going to cost $50 million to implement and create a large new Governmental agency. Spending money and expanding Government are two things these Republicans whine about all the time, why change their tune now? Are they hypocrites? Are they being disingenuous or are they just being dishonest? Personally my guess is all three.

  23. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 09/29/2012 - 09:53 am.

    These guys keep missing the point

    This is a perfect example of spin pretending to be something else. For one thing, everyone should know that Kiffmeyer is not champion of election day registration, she’s been trying to kill it and and vouchers for years. So much for republicans preserving EDR.

    But the real point is completely missed here, and this is the second time I’ve seen this in a Minnpost article. The provision that kills EDR isn’t the substantially equivalent requirement, it’s the 30 day requirement:

    “Section 1. (a) Every person 18 years of age or more who has been a citizen of the
    1.12United States for three months and who has resided in the precinct for 30 days next
    1.13preceding an election shall be entitled to vote in that precinct. The place of voting by one
    1.14otherwise qualified who has changed his residence within 30 days preceding the election
    1.15shall be prescribed by law.”

    What this basically means is that you have to be registered on election day to get a normal ballot instead of a provisional ballot. If you haven’t registered 30 days prior to the election, your registration isn’t verified, and even if you have a perfectly valid ID your vote won’t be counted on election day. It’s really very simple, just answer this one question: “What kind of ballot does an unregistered voter with a perfectly valid ID get on election day?” The answer is they’ll get a provisional ballot. Why? Because there’s no such thing anymore as election day registration. Why? Because you can’t verify an ID instantaneously, that’s why they have to have the 30 day language in the amendment. Kiffmeyer was asked this question multiple times during the floor debate and all she would say is that the person in this scenario gets to vote- she would NOT say if that would be a provisional or a normal ballot.

  24. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 09/30/2012 - 09:51 am.

    If you going to unspin you have to be factual

    Aside form the fallacy that election day registration is not threatened by this amendment, Mr. Nelson promotes yet another fallacy regarding the verification process. Nelson’s spin is the ten day period supposedly suggested by Mark Ritchie. Nelson claims that Ritchie’s office claims it will take up to ten days to verify an ID. Mr. Nelson did NOT get that information form Ritchie’s office, nor has any such claim ever been made.

    In fact is the 9 step verification process the SOS currently uses doesn’t take up to ten days, it takes several weeks, and Mr. Ritchie testified to that effect in front of the legislature. This is the reason the amendment contains the 30 day requirement for registration, the hope is that given thirty days all the ID’s will verified in time for the election.

    One reason Ritchie has apposed this strict ID without any exception amendment is because there is no clear or predictable way to know when all these provisional ballots will be counted because there’s no way to know how long it will take to verify them all. Ritchie has warned several times that we will not know who won an election in MN on election day, and no one can predict when the results will be available.

    So where did the “ten” day idea come from? It came from the authors of the amendment, not Ritchie. The original amendment text required all provisional ballots be counted ten days after the election however that language was dropped precisely because they realized it would be impossible to verify all those IDs and obtain them within ten days.

    The problem with “spin” is you either end up disregarding and ignoring facts, or obscuring them. Mr. Nelson attempt to “unspin” does both.

  25. Submitted by Richard Helle on 09/29/2012 - 06:05 pm.

    My vote

    I plan on voting no to this for the simple reason I have no idea how much it will cost or how it will be implemented. To me, it’s a horrible way to try and get legislation passed and entirely unconstitutional. It is common sense to vote no to this until there are some details. Then maybe.

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