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The Minnesota Voter ID Fraud: Is a sucker really born every minute?

This November we’ll find out how many suckers vote in Minnesota. Republicans in our fine state have joined their counterparts all over the nation in an ongoing effort to reduce the number of votes cast on Election day. Their rationale for doing this is the subject of another discussion, what we are concerned today is the hidden (I would say deliberately hidden) effects of a deceptively simple proposition. The plan is to amend the MN constitution to require that voters present a government issued photo ID on Election Day in order to cast a ballot. The actual ballot question will look like this:

“Shall the Minnesota Constitution be amended to require all voters to present
valid photo identification on Election Day and that the state provide free identification
to eligible voters?”

On the face of it this doesn’t seem like a big deal, but here’s what you need know: it’s a huge bait and switch.  Here’s how the ballot question should read:

“Shall the Minnesota Constitution be amended to require all voters to present
valid photo identification on election day, abolish same day voter registration, vouching, absentee ballots, create an entirely new system of “provisional” ballots,  and provide free identification
to eligible voters?”

I know, it’s a run-on sentence but this is really what you will be voting for if you vote “yes” for voter ID.

This is not simply an attempt to add photo ID to the existing system. This is completely changing the way we vote in MN and it will require the creation of an entirely new election infrastructure. This will eliminate same day registration, vouchers, and could completely change or even prohibit many if not all absentee ballots for state offices.

No more same day registration

Even if you have a valid photo ID on Election Day, if you are not already registered, you will only be allowed to cast a provisional ballot which will not be counted on Election Day. Why? Because the existing system that’s used to provide same day registration would be scrapped, and Republicans haven’t explained what exactly they’re going to replace it with, they promise to work that out after the amendment passes.  Those promises are not encouraging. When Mary Kiffmeyer, the House author of amendment was repeatedly asked whether or not unregistered voters with a valid ID would be allowed to cast a normal rather than a “provisional” ballot on Election Day, she simply would not answer the question. Kiffmeyer, a former Secretary of State, has always been critical of same day registration. This amendment a back door way of eliminating same day registration altogether. Same day registration without a valid photo ID will simply not be possible. If you lose your driver’s license the day before an election, even if you’ve been voting at the same polling place for 15 years, you will not be allowed to cast a normal ballot, you will have to cast a “provisional” ballot that will not be counted on Election Day. You will have tendered a provisional ballot that will only be counted after you return at a later date with the valid ID.  And by the way, you don’t return to the polling place, you have to go county elections office which for some Minnesotan’s is over a 200 mile round trip.

Basically same day registration would be replaced with provisional ballots. What’s wrong with provisional ballots? Well for one thing, no one knows when or if all the provisional ballots will be counted. The amendment guarantees you a provisional ballot, but it does not guarantee that that ballot will ultimately be counted. The amendment merely says these ballots will be counted “in a manner provided by law”.

In the last election 500,000 (almost 20% of the total votes) same day registration ballots were cast.  The effect of eliminating same day registration will disenfranchise voters and decrease the number of votes. Tens of thousands or maybe hundreds of thousands of provisional ballots will be set aside on Election day.

There’s another thing about these “provisional” ballots that’s troubling. Normally your vote is secret, no one knows or can know who you voted for. Provisional ballots by definition need to be attached to your identity until they’re verified. In other words, unlike a normal ballot that just goes into the machine, your provisional ballot has to be set aside with your name on it until it’s counted, if it’s ever counted.

Provisional ballots are completely new process for MN. They currently do not exist so the entire system of collecting them, storing them, keeping them intact and retrievable, and then counting or not counting them will have to be created. This is NOT simply adding a photo ID to the current system.

No more vouchers

In any given election there are thousands of voters who are living in new or temporary addresses. There are thousands of voters who have no address because they are in shelters or on the street. And then there are thousands that live in nursing homes or other group homes. It’s estimated that 200,000 or more of these people currently have no valid photo ID. Many seniors for instance have let their drivers licenses expire because they no longer drive. Many people living in group homes of various types can’t drive in any event.  Many college students from other states and other MN towns don’t have current state issued photo IDs. Of course it goes without saying that homeless people don’t have valid IDs with a current address on them. These are all people who are constitutionally guaranteed a right to vote, and who are currently voting. The way we currently accommodate these voters is to allow another registered voter to vouch for them.  A registered voter can vouch for up to 15 people.  Why 15 people? This is NOT about driving around a van and shuttling voters from one polling place to the next. Minnesota law currently licenses residential facilities i.e. group homes for developmentally disabled, mentally ill, battered women, chemical dependency, etc. to house 15 residents in most cases. The vouching system was set up so these people could be taken to the polling place by resident staff and cast their vote. A voucher testifies that you know this person, they are who they way they are, and they currently live in the precinct where they are voting. When you vouch for someone you basically sign an affidavit, it’s perjury to lie on an affidavit and in MN this is a felony offense.

Vouching is currently allowed as part of the same day registration process as well. Photo ID will eliminate vouching. Republicans want to eliminate vouching because they imagine thousands of voters being scooped up by nefarious ne’er-do -wells in big vans and being shuttled from poll to poll. The truth is that apparently no one is willing to go to jail on behalf of an underdog candidate because no actual instances of this kind of fraud have actually been prosecuted in MN, or even reported.  While one can imagine bus loads illegal voters, the truth is that this vouching allows thousands of MN’s the chance to exercise their constitutional right to vote.  Eliminating vouching won’t disenfranchise all of those voters, but it will disenfranchise some of them.

Republicans frequently evoke the specter of ACORN when it comes to this business of bus loads voters flitting around town in vans. Here’s what you need know: neither ACORN as an organization nor any of its members have been charged with voter fraud.  What some ACORN workers have been charged with is election registration fraud. The difference between registration and voter fraud is significant. There is no evidence that ACORN members were trying to influence elections by stuffing ballots, rather they were trying to meet registration quotas in order to get paid, they produced bogus registrations, they did not produce fraudulent voters or votes.  And there have been no reports about ACORN having anything to do with van loads of voters.

Absentee ballots under threat

Republicans try to blow a lot of smoke all over this but the fact is there no way that someone casting an absentee ballot can produce a Photo ID in person on the day of election as required by this amendment. Language allows for a: “substantially equivalent” verification process, but Republicans have never described what that process could look like, and frankly it’s very difficult to imagine what it could look like. What could be “equivalent” to producing a photo ID in person on the day of election? Ironically when pressed on this issue on the house floor Kiffmeyer suggested that a vouching signature on the absentee ballot might be sufficient. So vouching would be eliminated for people voting in person, but created for people voting by absentee ballot.  Apparently there are some federal protections for casting absentee ballots for federal office, but the extent to which these laws would protect Minnesota’s absentee ballots is unclear at best.

Beyond all the considerations I’ve discussed so far there are very basic problems with this proposition. The nature of a “valid” ID has not been defined, and Republicans have been very dodgy about the issue. On the floor of the House when asked, Kiffmeyer actually claimed that any government issued photo ID would be “valid”. She said that if you up showed to vote in Rochester with a Nevada driver’s license you’d be allowed to vote.  Frankly, this is a lie and Kiffmeyer knows it.  A valid ID for voting has to have your current address on it because you’re not just demonstrating who you are, but that you’re voting at the right location. Without the address requirement a bunch of folks from Wisconsin could come over and vote against Michelle Bachmann. Remember, the current same day registration process that requires additional verification like a utility bill, will no longer exist. This means that a valid ID must have a current address on it and THAT means that forms of ID like passports and military IDs will not be valid for voting. What Kiffmeyer isn’t telling us is that such voters may be given “provisional” ballots, but there would no way to cast a ballot that would counted on Election Day.

Furthermore, the actual mechanics of a presenting an ID have not been described in any meaningful way. There are videos showing nifty little card swipers connected to laptops but that actually raises more questions than it answers. For one thing it reinforces the notion that specific kinds of state issued IDs will be required. Unless you have multiple swipe technology connected to multiple data bases you’re going to be limited to certain types of IDs. You can’t use the same technology to swipe a driver’s license and a passport for instance. And you’d have to be connected to completely different data bases i.e. the State Department for passports, and the Pentagon for Military IDs. The connections between these data bases and the polling place would have to secure and reliable, and the data bases themselves would have to perfectly reliable and up to date. For instance, if the intention really is to accept out of state driver’s licenses as Kiffmeyer said, then every polling place would have to be connected to a minimum of 50 different data bases on election, and you would need the technology to swipe all of these.  The technical logistics for all of this don’t currently exist anywhere in the world, and frankly the cost of creating one would be prohibitive. This means that as a practical matter, state ID or Driver’s license with a current address will be the only form of voter ID that will get your vote counted on Election day, and that’s only if you’re already registered.

Regardless what technology would ultimately be deployed, there will be malfunctions and user errors. You have to remember, the polls are not staffed by computer nerds, they are staffed by volunteers who will have to be trained in a completely new system and technology. Even with existing technology we have hundreds of breakdowns on Election Day that poll workers have to contend with.  Right now, no matter what technical problems may arise at the polls, you get to vote and your vote gets counted.  This new system creates an entirely new front end that blocks votes from being counted under a variety of circumstances for a variety of anticipated and unanticipated reasons.

It’s vitally important that MN voters understand that the voter ID requirement created by this constitutional amendment does NOT simply “add” photo ID to the current system. This requirement completely restructures and changes the way we do elections in MN. It will disenfranchise the most vulnerable voters in the state, it will cost tens of millions of dollar to implement, and there is actually no evidence that will even prevent voter fraud.

This blog was written by Paul Udstrand and originally published on Thoughtful Bastards.

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Comments (23)

  1. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 04/18/2012 - 12:24 pm.


    73% of likely voters think the photo ID requirement before voting does not discriminate.

    The good news is, for those who disagree, if the law passes you’ve got two years to get an ID before the next election when it will be required.

    • Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 04/18/2012 - 07:12 pm.


      73% of likely voters were not told that voter fraud is vanishingly rare before being asked if they think it’s a bad thing. I agree–voter fraud is a bad thing. But, so are vampires and werewolves. Since none of them exist at a level that actually has some effect on the real world, I choose to worry about other things.

      • Submitted by Anthony Dischinger on 11/06/2012 - 01:29 pm.

        Wording of Question Bias

        They weren’t told about the rarity of voter fraud because they wanted the sample to be representative of the population of all eligible voters in MN. If they were told before asked the question, they would’ve introduced wording of question bias, which would’ve made the statistic invalid. Though I agree that if more people knew, then the stat would be much lower.

  2. Submitted by Pat Berg since 2011 on 04/18/2012 - 12:32 pm.

    This is a great article

    You should make it available as a printable PDF in brochure form so it can be passed out easily in the months to come.

  3. Submitted by Dan McGrath on 04/18/2012 - 01:08 pm.

    Utter Falsehoods

    Election Day registration will not be eliminated and people who register to vote on Election Day will only have to cast a provisional ballot if they don’t have ID. Eligibility will be verified on the spot. I know Secretary Ritchie is running around screaming that Election Day registration is under threat, but he’s a staunch opponent of Voter ID who appears to be abusing his office to engage in a misinformation campaign. A dozen attorneys have reviewed the amendment. None have come to Ritchie’s conclusion. The author of the bill served 8 years as Secretary of State and has worked on Voter ID bills for 4 years. She says it doesn’t end Election Day registration or require EDR voters to cast a provisional ballot.

    Indiana, a state with a strict voter ID law, provisional ballots and a similar voting population to Minnesota had less than 4,000 provisional ballots cast in the 2008 election. Transpose that over Minnesota’s roughly 4,000 voting precincts, and we’re looking at a likely average of one provisional ballot cast per polling place.

    99% Absentee voters will notice no difference in how they vote. The only change will be the check box that says “I don’t have any ID” will be removed from the ballot envelope.

    Opponents of Voter ID have no rational basis for their opposition to election integrity (that they can express in public, anyhow), so resort to lies, distortions, misinformation and scare-tactics.

    Utter tripe. MinnPost should be ashamed for publishing this demonstrably false garbage.

    • Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 04/19/2012 - 09:31 am.

      It’s a blog

      You must be the OTHER Dan McGrath.

      The article is a blog reprinted by MinnPost. It is an opinion piece, and every news source has them. Your powers of observation are questionable.

      That being said, the practical effect IS, in fact, the demise of election day registration. Eligibility can ONLY be verified on the spot with a handful of IDs–hence the need to have a lot of time, MONEY, and effort into linking databases. Probably ONLY state-issued drivers licenses and photo IDs, not any governmental photo ID.

      In other words, I can’t just show up with my passport and vote. Do you know why? Because this is the information contained on a passport:
      Photo (up to 10 years old)
      Date of birth
      State in which born
      Date of issue
      Date of expiration

      There is NO information about my eligibility to vote other than the fact that I am a US citizen. You CANNOT determine whether I am a felon, or even which state I’m eligible to vote in, let alone which precinct within which district within which state.

      If the author of the bill says that it doesn’t end Election Day registration and also says that my passport (and out of state drivers licenses) are perfectly valid forms of identification for election day registration, she’s either daft or lying. And if you believe her, I have a bridge to sell you.

      A dozen lawyers have reviewed the amendment, eh? Sounds like a good start for a joke. A dozen lawyers, perfectly selected and properly paid, can tell you pretty much anything you want to hear. I work with lawyers; most of them are perfectly decent people. But there are still a handful out there that provide us with justification for laughing at lawyer jokes.

      I’d say that there are MANY perfectly rational reasons for opposing this amendment, and the first is that the author of the bill, itself, is blatantly lying (or incapable of considering anything outside her perfect dystopia).

      Who’s engaging in a misinformation campaign? Who’s resorting to lies, distortions, misinformation and scare-tactics? Proponents of this amendment can’t even provide us with a SINGLE example of a person who committed voter fraud where a photo ID would have prevented it. Not a single one. Yet, the whole concept revolves around the fear of this hoard of bad people voting without IDs ruining our voting system, our freedom, and the very FABRIC of our country! A solution to a very scary, but imaginary, problem.

      Please, don’t treat the people (here, at least) like we’re incapable of rational thought.

    • Submitted by Bob Stephenson on 04/24/2012 - 11:24 am.

      Dan McGrath’s comments.


  4. Submitted by Dan McGrath on 04/18/2012 - 01:56 pm.

    Does Gov. Dayton Want to Eliminate Election Day Registration?

    The Constitutional Amendment doesn’t say anything about eliminating Election Day registration. If such a course was to be pursued, it would have to be done statutorily by the legislature. Statutory bills passed by the legislature require the governor’s signature to become law. In order for this fevered fantasy about eliminating Election Day registration to come true, it would need the support of Governor Dayton. Does he want to eliminate Election Day registration? No, and neither do the authors or supporters of the Voter ID amendment.

    Your falsehood has been disproven.

    • Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 04/19/2012 - 09:50 am.

      No proof

      In order for something to be disproven, you have to provide opposing proof that overcomes the original assertion, or at least a proper rationale for your position.

      You have provided neither.

      Whether intended or not, the fact is, election day registration will only be possible if everyone that wishes to register has an ID that can properly verify eligibility. Otherwise, the law is toothless. I would submit that only 2 forms of ID will fit the bill: MN driver’s license and MN photo ID, as those are the only two that can be readily verified by fairly simple means. And in order for them to be fully verified, they must be electronically verified. Otherwise, any kid with a fake ID could vote. I’m pretty sure that the incidence of fake IDs is WAY higher (as much as about 30% of college students) than voter fraud (an itty bitty fraction of a fraction of a fraction of 1% of all votes cast–even if 100 times the number of people are caught, it’s still an itty bitty fraction of a fraction of 1%).

  5. Submitted by Rosalind Kohls on 04/18/2012 - 02:36 pm.

    how many are there?

    I wish the opponents of the Voter ID amendment would actually make a count of how many senior citizens, college students, nursing home residents, group home residents and homeless there are in Minnesota who have no photo ID now. I believe there are darn few, not thousands and thousands of people (a gross exaggeration) who will be disenfranchised if voters approve the amendment.

    • Submitted by Pat Berg since 2011 on 04/18/2012 - 03:45 pm.

      Acceptable losses?

      Why? What is the “acceptable’ number of people which can be disenfranchised? And who gets to decide where that “acceptable” threshhold lies?

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 04/22/2012 - 05:06 pm.

      No ID count?

      The Secretary of State estimates around 200,000 voters currently lack either a drivers license or State ID.

  6. Submitted by Dan McGrath on 04/18/2012 - 04:46 pm.

    What’s the acceptable number of fraudulent ballots?

    No eligible voter will be unable to vote under the Voter ID amendment. State and federal courts, have heard the “disenfranchisement” argument all the way to the US Supreme Court. They found no evidence that any eligible voter would be unable to vote with a strict Voter ID law that included free IDs and provisional ballots. Guess what? Minnesota’s Voter Id amendment includes free IDs and provisional ballots!

    So, since disenfranchisement has been repeatedly disproven in court and voter fraud has been repeatedly proven in court (resulting in a record number of convictions in Minnesota), what’s the acceptable threshold of fraud? How many voters are you OK with disenfranchising via fraud?

    • Submitted by Pat Berg since 2011 on 04/18/2012 - 05:49 pm.

      Fraud requires intent

      What is the source for your “record number of convictions in Minnesota”? What made them fraud?

      Hint: Fraud requires intent. An ineligible voter who does not realize they are ineligible may have committed a crime, but without intent they have not committed fraud.

    • Submitted by Richard Schulze on 04/18/2012 - 08:12 pm.

      A couple of things about these laws that make me uneasy. They do not make me a confirmed opponent, but they make me nervous. First is cost. For such laws not to constitute an undue burden, states cannot charge people for photo-IDs: otherwise it constitutes a de facto poll tax. States also have to spend time and money making sure voters are aware of the new laws. Indiana found that implementing its photo-ID law cost $1.3m, with an additional $2.2m in revenue loss. A cost study in Missouri concerned a proposed photo-ID law forecast costs of $6m the first year and $4m recurring. According to a Brennan Center report, around 11% of voters nationally lack government-issued photo IDs. A few mil here and a few mil there may not sound like much, but when state budgets are tight it those costs add up.

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 04/22/2012 - 05:46 pm.

      The courts and Voter ID thus far

      Actually although some courts have refused to block some voter ID laws, no one has ruled that voter ID DOESN’T disenfranchise voters. The Justice department blocked Mississippi’s voter ID amendment on the grounds that it would disenfranchise voters, and the Wisconsin Courts have now blocked voter ID there for the same reason. Other courts simply pointed out that since no cases had yet come to the courts, they had nothing to rule on yet. In other words, in some cases the courts are saying we have to enact the laws, and then bring alleged disenfranchisement cases before the courts to get a ruling, until then they won’t rule. In other words, the courts have NOT endorsed voter ID in the way proponents like to claim. The rulings are mixed, and they have just begun.

  7. Submitted by James Thompson on 04/20/2012 - 03:02 pm.

    Some thoughts

    I agree with Richard. The required costs seem too high for a voting issue I’ve not seen. Truthfully, I wish we’d add this amount of money or even more spending towards early childhood education throughout MN, a real investment.

    However, I think the real rationale for this picture ID amendment is related to a strong dislike of same-day voter registration. I point to rather “hard” data MINNPOST recently published that maps precincts with high (>40%) same-day registrations in 2008 to whether they went Democratic or Republican — which indicates 92% of these precincts voted DFL.

    This data gives one numbers to form better opinions. I have a hard time accepting the totality of these same-day 2008 voting results were due to fraud!

    Makes much sense for GOP members/supporters to be extremely vague on the nature of future same-day registration before this amendment has a chance to pass…. as they want DFL supporters to vote yes.

  8. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 04/22/2012 - 09:59 pm.

    PDF version

    As per Pat Berg’s suggestion, here is a PDF version that can be saved and distributed:

    Thanks for the idea Pat.

  9. Submitted by Bob Stephenson on 04/24/2012 - 11:23 am.

    Last night’s Fox News report on Voter Fraud

    Let me guess….you missed it? I have a possible answer to everyone who says they have not heard of or seen evidence of voter fraud. That’s because NPR and MSNBC don’t talk about it. So, even though Fox News is nothing but right-wing propaganda, for the sake of being open-minded watch this, because you will not see this on other networks. You should at least check out Fox to know your enemy (Sun Tzu). It’s 40 minutes, but you can zip forward to 23:40 to the section on Voter ID, and 32:40 to the (very compelling) part about documented fraud in the Fanken/Coleman race. It can be accessed by going to Youtube and searching “FOX NEWS REPORTING: STEALING YOUR VOTE.”

  10. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 04/24/2012 - 11:26 pm.

    Election fraud and Fox News

    There’s no reason to suffer through 40 minutes of fox news. The fact that the Republican Secretary of State of the voter ID state of Indiana was convicted of 6 counts of felony voter fraud back in Feb is well documented. So to is the fact that 144 people have been convicted of voter fraud in MN since 2009. Straw men who are blind to voter fraud are not the issue. The question is whether or not voter ID requirements address that fraud, or will prevent fraud, or will prevent more fraudulent than legal votes in Minnesota. The answer to that question is simply “no”.

    • Submitted by rick plunkett on 04/25/2012 - 10:06 am.

      Let’s ID Voter Fraud

      Do we have good data on the circumstances of the 144 cases of voter fraud? Do we have detail? Are there different types of “fraud”? Who has done this and why? Does this history give insight into what, if anything, is needed now?

  11. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 04/25/2012 - 11:02 am.

    144 cases of voter fraud

    The vast majority of cases were convicted felons casting votes, they’re not supposed to vote. Ironically a law that would have prevented almost all of those votes was vetoed by Tim Pawlenty. The legislature passed a law that would have given the Secretary of States office the ability to link with the know felon data base, and flagged felons when if they tried to vote. It passed on a bipartisan vote with only six votes against, but then Pawlenty vetoed it. It’s also important to note that none of those of felons would have been prevented from voting by the Voter ID amendment because they all had valid IDs, and felon status is not on MN IDs nor is there a proposal to add it. I think someone already pointed this out, but voter ID proponents have been challenged to provide evidence of any illegal votes that would have been prevented by photo ID and they have yet to present a single case.

    MPR did a nice little story on the voter fraud:

    Secretary of State Mark Ritchie has proposed creating an electronic registration system that would eliminate most of these problems without creating a whole new system. It would be more effective and less expensive, while preserving our high voting participation.

    Ritchie introduced his proposal here on Minnpost:

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