Voter picture ID by constitutional amendment?

The Big E over at MN Progressive Project got ahold of a fund-raising email from a righty group called the Minnesota Voters Alliance indicating that the MVA is taking steps to ask the Legislature to put a state constitutional amendment on the 2012 ballot to require photo ID’s for voters.

I’ve heard both sides argue the merits of that idea for years, and I don’t find either case overwhelming. But it’s pretty obvious that Republicans think it will help them win future elections, which is why the idea never passed when the DFL controlled the Legislature and why (presumptive?) Gov. Dayton would probably veto any legislation imposing such a requirement unless it was part of some grand bargain.

Maybe voter photo ID would be on the list of bills that the Repubs could rush through in January if they have a few extra days of the Pawlenty term. He would sign it. But if that scenario doesn’t come to pass, recall that a proposed constitutional amendment can get on the ballot without a guv’s signature. All it has to do is pass by majority vote in both houses.

As I’ve mentioned before, assuming we end up with the Repub Legislature facing a Dem governor, a lot of long-standing Repub ideas are liable to be pushed as constitutional amendments.

The incoming Repub leadership has said they have no such plans, especially on social issues. They want to send a strong signal that they’re focusing on budget and economy issues, which is smart — for 2011. But 2012 will be a non-budget session and I would be surprised if a whole bunch of pent-up social issues and very likely some kind of constitutional amendment making it harder to raise raise state taxes get pushed toward the 2012 ballot.

Bear in mind that once one of those things gets into the Constitution, it’s hard to get it out.

Republicans might consider it advantageous to have several such amendments on the ballot even if only as a tool to rally conservative turnout.

Although the governorship and the rest of the state constitutional offices won’t be on the ballot in 2012, the entire Legislature will be up for reelection, the Klobuchar seat will be on the ballot (as well as all U.S. House seats and the first shot for the DFL to try to reclaim the 8th District. And there could be a raft of proposed constitutional amendments. That could be quite an election.

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Comments (23)

  1. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 12/01/2010 - 03:08 pm.

    It’s not that the Republicans think it will help them win future elections, it’s that the Democrats know it will hurt them.

    That’s the only possible conclusion you can reach when they’re so adament about a simple request of showing ID when they all do it every day for such mundane tasks as cashing a check, buying smokes or getting on an airplane.

    You know it. I know it. They know it. They depend on bogus votes to win elections.

  2. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 12/01/2010 - 05:32 pm.

    I think that fact that photo IDs would disenfranchise thousands of voters is a pretty compelling argument against them. Absentee ballots for instance would be impossible. Dennis, Republicans have always tried to suppress turnout, they think it helps them win elections.

  3. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 12/01/2010 - 07:16 pm.

    Too bad Mr. Tester isn’t able to provide any substantiation for his assertion about “bogus votes.” As someone who’s been “represented” by right wing lunatics far too often as an adult, I can certainly empathize with the pain of being in the minority during and after an election, but I don’t assume that Republicans won their offices by “bogus votes.”

    Meanwhile I look forward to Mr. Tester’s defense of requiring photo ID cards to vote in the context of “small” and less-intrusive government which right-wingers have been crusading for. The mental gymnastics should be very entertaining.

  4. Submitted by Tony Wagner on 12/01/2010 - 08:26 pm.

    Mr. Tester,

    Long post, but I think it’s worth it…

    If such a dependence on “bogus votes” was so persistent and clear, I suspect that one of the thousands of election officials to serve our state over the years would have noticed something substantive. Perhaps even our 2-term Republican Secretary of State Mary Kiffmeyer, now a leading advocate of voter picture ID, would have found something concrete during her time in office, no? I’d love to hear in detail how you allege these bogus votes are being cast under everyone’s noses, what individuals are perpetrating this fraud, how it is being done on a wide enough scale to influence normal election results, and what rewards the actual perpetrators are gaining at the risk of stiff criminal prosecution. And no, sound bites about ACORN and Minnesota Majority press releases have not yet contained ample enough evidence of this fraud. You don’t really think the Democrats election strategy depends on a handful of forced votes from the mentally handicapped in Crow Wing county, do you?

    I don’t think our current system of registration and voting is exactly 100% perfect, but I think it is 100% successful in discouraging systematic fraud and abuse:

    1) There are requirements for registration and “signing in” at the polling place, so multiple “bogus” votes cannot be cast casually or easily — it would take a lot of planning and preparation (and ignorance of the legal penalties) by a smart, motivated individual to even cast one extra ballot. It’s not for dummies.

    2) Since election results are unknown until the polls close, and the number of voters is so large, there is essentially zero reward (versus immense legal risk as mentioned above) for attempting to cast even a handful of “bogus” ballots — not a proposition appealing to most intelligent, motivated people!

    3) Very few people (perhaps not even the candidates themselves) have a strong enough interest in the outcome to knowingly attempt any election fraud. Most decisions by elected officials affect individual citizens only tangentially, and even then, Republicans and Democrats are far more alike than they are different (which sounds terrible on the campaign trail, but is demonstrably true).

    Imagine a dozen lowly campaign staffers each visit a dozen Minneapolis precincts on election day, registering and voting for their candidate with a fake ID or voucher and utility bill in each place. In turn, the candidate’s chief aides agree to guarantee government jobs to these staffers once their candidate is elected. Problem is, that’s only 144 votes — not enough to impact any recent statewide race or even any reasonably likely outcome. You’d have to multiply this scheme by 10 before you could even *think* it would have an impact. And even with only a dozen primary perpetrators casting a total of 144 bogus votes, you’ve already created a significantly large web of people with knowledge of the situation (the perpetrators, their significant others, the higher campaign officials promising jobs, transportation providers, vouchers, etc.). It defies credibility to think that this would be happening with the odds of impact so low and the risk of being exposed so high. In fact, any staffers or others asked to do this would easily stand to gain more by exposing the proposed fraud as whistleblowers.

    Once you consider that our system has to serve several million citizens, of all ages and backgrounds, without disenfranchising or over-burdening too many of them, it appears our current system is doing a fine job. The biggest threat to American elections today is probably large-scale “fudging” of numbers, which fortunately is not an issue in Minnesota due to our “paper trail” and many eyes on the process throughout.

    Of course we should seek improvement to our system wherever we can find it, but I just don’t see where a picture ID requirement improves anything.

  5. Submitted by Tony Wagner on 12/01/2010 - 08:42 pm.

    And Mr. Tester,

    If Republicans are proposing the photo ID requirement to restore the integrity of election process, there is another “possible conclusion” to the Democrats opposing the measure: they may not believe that the integrity of our election process is in jeopardy. (It certainly seems as if data and logic are both on that side at the moment.)

  6. Submitted by Richard Schulze on 12/01/2010 - 09:10 pm.

    The critics are right about one thing: many states face far more pressing problems than voter impersonation.

    In the United States, the idea of the government requiring people to possess an ID is controversial, at best; at worst, it is viewed as a dangerous infringement on civil liberties. That the state should have an interest in forcing its citizens to obtain an ID is a bad platform to tout around.

  7. Submitted by Tom Anderson on 12/01/2010 - 09:22 pm.

    It isn’t that the Democrats win by picking up frivolous or fake votes, it is that Republicans win when they can block people from voting. The number of fake votes or voters who would be stopped by this amendment are far outnumbered by the number of people who would be unable to vote if this became a requirement. Requiring a photo ID is a modern form of the old literacy requirements that were used to prevent minorities from voting. Before you get upset about how “easy” it is to get a photo ID, consider that it takes time, money, and information- all things that some Minnesotans don’t have as much of as you might.

  8. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 12/01/2010 - 09:48 pm.

    Funny how all the Republican lawyer money has yet to produce a single instance of a ‘bogus vote’.

  9. Submitted by David Greene on 12/02/2010 - 12:33 am.

    The opposing viewpoints on the two sides are a perfect example of something I’ve observed over the years. As a person of faith, I deeply believe in what scripture has to say about us. The very first thing it says about us is that we are good. When you drill down into it, one side believes that while the other side fundamentally distrusts everyone. In other words, in their viewpoint, human beings are created “not good” and only become good through extraordinary effort.

    Almost all of the controversial social issues can be looked at through this lens. Does one believe we are good or not?

  10. Submitted by Peder DeFor on 12/02/2010 - 07:38 am.

    43 people in Hennepin country have been charged with voter fraud and it looks like many, many more could have been except for a paperwork mistake done with discharged felons. There easily could have been more bad votes than there was a victory margin in the 2008 Senate race. That’s a little bit problematic.
    Every time I hear about the voting process in MN I’m reminded of Twain’s ‘Man that Corrupted Hadleyburg’. We’re so smugly convinced that we’ve got the best system that we’re incredibly open to fraud. I don’t know how big of an issue this is but squeezing our eyes shut won’t tell us.

  11. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 12/02/2010 - 08:27 am.

    //43 people in Hennepin country have been charged with voter fraud and it looks like many, many more could have been except for a paperwork mistake done with discharged felons

    There was a nice debate between Richie and his challenger on MPR before the election. Richie pointed out that several extensive investigations had revealed almost no actual voter fraud. There were instances of people accidentally voting because they didn’t know they weren’t supposed to, but the number is very small. Implementing a expensive and very problematic voter ID program that would disenfranchise tens of thousands of legitimate voters is an absurd remedy. In fact, most of those accidental votes would have been prevented if the various agencies could share data on felons. Legislators passed just such legislation with only six votes against in the House, and then Pawlenty vetoed it. Why would Pawlenty prefer a remedy that disenfranchises tens of thousands of voters and costs ten times more? Simple, one remedy targets only those who aren’t supposed to vote- maybe 100 votes out of 2 million. The other targets tens of thousands of people who for a variety of reason don’t have or cannot produce a state ID. Which remedy suppresses the most votes?

  12. Submitted by Dan Hintz on 12/02/2010 - 10:19 am.

    Sigh. Peder, of course you are aware that voter ID would have done nothing to prevent the illegal felon votes. If you were really interested in stopping felon votes, you would be supporting the efforts of the Secretary of State and the DFL in passing legislation to inform felons of their voting rights. I won’t hold my breath. Sigh.

  13. Submitted by Tom Anderson on 12/02/2010 - 10:29 am.

    Anther important question to ask is why exactly felons should not be allowed to vote. How does committing a crime revoke one of the most basic rights of an American?

  14. Submitted by Peder DeFor on 12/02/2010 - 11:28 am.

    But I was told there was no problem at all with our voting! And all this with a sizeable number being charged with it right here in our own backyard. How can we be certain that there aren’t more problems out there?
    Look, I don’t know that it’s a problem, or any kind of sizeable problem. I do know that the procedures to keep down multiple voting are hardly foolproof. And that the smug assurances that there can’t be a problem are only comforting to those who pretty obviously don’t want a problem to be found.

    Maybe we can shed some light on the question. Does anyone have a clue what percentage of the voting age population don’t have a secure ID? Is it all that large? I’m asked for a photo ID on a fairly regular basis, and that’s all without buying cigarettes or regular nights at a bar. I know that post driving age seniors sometimes don’t have one but it seems like it would be pretty easy to ID most of them through senior homes or other means. Maybe even an exemption for anyone that swear to being over 65 or something like that. This is a solvable problem.
    What about younger populations?

  15. Submitted by Fred Fuhldang on 12/02/2010 - 12:09 pm.

    The Governor has no say up or down on Constitutional amendments. All that has to happen is the House and Senate pass a bill by simple majorities, and it goes on the ballot. So if the Republicans pass a proposed amendment, Gov. Dayton can’t veto it.

  16. Submitted by Alicia DeMatteo on 12/02/2010 - 12:42 pm.

    David —

    It’s interesting you should say that because for some reason I’ve done a lot of thinking lately about whether we are basically good or not. While I don’t inform myself with scripture, I’ve come to the conclusion that we all want to be good, but our chances of achieving this are much more likely when given the tools/opportunities to be good or take the “moral high road.” But when we as human are in desperate situations, “good” quickly turns into “what is best for me.”

    That’s all the rambling I’ll do for now.

  17. Submitted by Tony Wagner on 12/02/2010 - 02:00 pm.

    Mr. DeFor,

    Do you realize that the voting issues you referenced in #10 would not be addressed at all by a photo ID requirement? Even felons and multiple voters can present a simple photo ID (legitimate or otherwise) — in fact, it’s quite likely that some already presented one in these cases. Unless you’re advocating creating an entirely new “Voter ID” card to be issued to every voter in the state (although used only once every 2-4 years) that has to be scanned and validated by a central computer under the control of a small number of individuals on election day — which sounds both very costly and very prone to disruption, if not outright corruption. (Think about the problems with “no-fly” lists and Florida’s purged voter rolls — imagine if a felon named Peder DeFor was confused with you!)

    And if you are paranoid now and you assume that people are intentionally trying to vote illegally, even this system wouldn’t be theoretically “foolproof” as IDs can still be lost, faked, or stolen, especially easily if they are only used infrequently.

    The fact that you would advocate such a solution when you also state that you “don’t know that it’s a problem” suggests that exaggeration is a greater issue here than any kind of cover-up. And the data (or lack thereof) backs that up — remember, there is still zero evidence of intentional or widespread fraud or abuse with our current voting system, despite having thousands of eyes of BOTH major parties watching everything, and two terms with a Republican/”Minnesota Majority” leader actually being in charge of our elections process! Paranoia and a handful of ineligible felon voters does not a problem make.

  18. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 12/02/2010 - 02:41 pm.

    Author Editor Peder DeFor says:
    “But I was told there was no problem at all with our voting! And all this with a sizable number being charged with it…”
    I’m not sure what ‘it’ is, but assuming that you are referring to voting illegally, while there have been a sizable number of allegations, I don’t think that there have been many people actually charged with illegal voting; much less convicted of it.

  19. Submitted by Josh Lease on 12/02/2010 - 03:30 pm.

    Mr. DeFor, you freely admit that there’s a segment of the voting population that no longer possess a state-issued photo ID with their current address, and want to exempt them. But why are they somehow special from anyone else who doesn’t have this ID?

    For adults without cars, lack of a photo ID rarely affects their life, so why do they suddenly need to get one? Why don’t they get an exemption?

    What about students? Students are allowed by law to vote where they live, but rarely do students update their driver’s license when they come to school; there’s no reason for them to do so. Are we going to give students an exception too?

    None of these groups have done anything wrong. All of whom will be disenfranchised with a new voter ID requirement.

    Now add in the fact that a voter ID law will do little, if anything, to stop the small amounts of voter fraud we do see. Photo IDs won’t indicate if someone was a convicted felon (or is the MN GOP advocating a “scarlet letter” on a driver’s license, so anyone who checks the ID can see?), and currently felons voting thinking they had their right restored when they weren’t actually off paper yet is the biggest segment of improper voting.

    So why exactly is Photo ID so important as to require a constitutional amendment? Republicans keep telling me how we need less government. Why in the world do they want more government here to fix a problem that is vastly overblown with a solution that doesn’t even address a significant problem and will inconvenience lawful citizens and cost them money?

  20. Submitted by Peder DeFor on 12/02/2010 - 06:30 pm.

    Josh, do you have percentages with the other groups? I’d like a hard number of people effected. Anyone have one?

  21. Submitted by Lynda Friedman on 12/02/2010 - 09:20 pm.

    Why are we even bothering with picture ID for voters? I can foresee lots of “frivolous” picture challenges during the next recount. Change your hair color, gain weight, have plastic surgery or grow a beard, and you no longer have a valid picture accepted without challenge by the Republican party unless you vote for their candidates. Let’s skip right to micro-chipping at birth. And every felon could be chipped again when convicted to prevent dreaded “illegal votes”. Think of all the other ID situations micro chipping could simplify: airline travel, passport control, credit card fraud. I think there is even a Minnesota-based company that provides chips for pets. Think of how their business would grow. So “Minnesota Voters Alliance”, why are you stopping at picture id? Go for a really big idea: Micro-chipping at birth.

  22. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 12/02/2010 - 09:27 pm.

    The only evidence you need of how vital it is to democrats to allow people to vote without identifying themselves is to measure the amount of resistance they put up when the republican legislature passes the law.

  23. Submitted by Paul Landskroener on 12/03/2010 - 11:49 am.

    Mr DeFor — Here is some concrete evidence, though anecdotal, to give you some idea of how many people cannot provide photo ID on election day.

    In the precinct where I am an election judge, we registered more than 300 voters on election day. The vast majority of whom are students [Augsburg] whose driver licenses have their “home” address, not their college address where they are entitled to vote. The same day registrants constituted about a third of the votes cast in the precinct. This translates to many thousands of voters state-wide. Add to these a sizable number of voters who are transient and move often — disproportionately younger and poorer — and the burden of a current photo ID is clear.

    True, many of these students did have a DL that confirmed WHO they are, but requiring an ID with a current address un the precinct would have disenfranchised tens of thousands of voters.

    Remember, though I have to show mt DL or passport to board an airplane (or to give blood, which I am doing now), no one cares whether my address — including apartment number — is correct. The only thing that a photo ID would maybe fix is Smith showing up and claiming to be and voting as voting as Jones. Does anyone believe that this is happening in Minnesota in any great numbers? (More precisely, does anyone have EVIDENCE that this is happening.)

    If there was a demonstrable problem of illegal voting that requiring a photo ID would solve, the solution should address what the problem really is and its cost (i.e., denying the vote to at least some eligible voters) doesn’t outweigh the bebefit (i.e., increasing the likelihood that no ineligible voter votes.)I, for one, haven’t seen any plan that meets this test.

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