From the front row: A recap of the Supreme Court argument over the voter ID amendment, and why it matters

At trial was whether the voter ID amendment question, as it is being put to the voters, is misleading.

I grew up with an eye on Minnesota politics and spent summers interning at the state capitol watching the floor debates on TV; but on July 17th in Saint Paul I had a front row seat.  The Minnesota Supreme court heard a challenge to a proposed constitutional amendment that would require valid, state-issued photo identification for voting in Minnesota, and I was courtside.

The room was abuzz and the Justices were beyond well-prepared. The lawyers on both sides had barely introduced their arguments when the storm of questions rained down from the bench and struck to the core of the issue.  It was intimidating. At trial was whether the amendment question, as it is being put to the voters, is misleading.

The lawsuit, brought by the League of Women voters and a coalition including Jewish Community Action (where I am on staff as an organizer), was argued by Bill Pentalovich and a team from Maslon Edelman Borman & Brand. The last case that I heard Bill Pentalovich argue was a mock trial of Abraham held at Adath Jeshurun’s Shabbat Morning Program when I was a bar mitzvah student. Abe didn’t stand a chance.

To bring down photo ID, the team from Maslon argued that the discrepancy between the ballot question and the actual amendment is deceptive and should be struck from the ballot. 

The short ballot question does not accurately reflect the drastic impact that the amendment will have on our voting system.

One in six Minnesota voters would likely be affected by this change, including the elderly, service members oversees and communities of color that have been historically excluded from voting. If passed, an entirely new system of provisional balloting would need to be enacted.

Our same-date voter registration system, the reason that Minnesota has the highest voter participation in the country, will be upended.

The cost to the state is estimated at millions of dollars up front, with more in the future, and it will likely lead to an increase in property taxes.

And most astonishing of all, we will not know exactly what we are voting on, as it has been left to the 2013 legislature to determine what a new system will look like. The language that voters will see on the ballot won’t reflect any of that. We won’t know what we are voting on.

Justice David Stras expressed his own confusion when reading the ballot language: The way that the legislature has posed it to voters (calling for merely “valid photo ID” without language of “state issued”) even had him wondering if his Jewish Community Center membership card with his picture on it would be an acceptable ID for voting. According to the amendment language and the law makers’ intention it won’t be, and so the language of the question is misleading. If the ballot question isn’t clear on what is “valid photo ID,” how can we vote on whether to require it?

The team of attorneys defending the ballot question argued that it is not “palpably” misleading and that it is the responsibility of the voters to know what they are voting on and not to be misled. The ruling will likely come down to whether or not the Supreme Court thinks it has the authority to strike this from the ballot.

If photo ID does make it to the voters (possible) and then is passed (also possible), our ability to affect the decisions that impact our lives will be undermined.

To find out how you and your grandparents in Menorah Plaza could be impacted if voter ID is enacted visit, the unified campaign to defeat this unnecessary amendment and click here to pledge to vote NO.

This is a guest post by Gabe Kravitz, an organizer working with Jewish Community Action to defeat two amendments that would cement exclusion into Minnesota’s constitution. It was originally published on TC Jewfolk.  Follow Gabe Kravitz on Twitter @gabekravitz.

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Comments (5)

  1. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 08/09/2012 - 12:17 pm.


    “If photo ID does make it to the voters (possible) and then is passed (also possible), our ability to affect the decisions that impact our lives will be undermined.”

    Only if you were expecting, indeed, counting on illegal votes to fall mostly to your side in every election. Because all Voter ID does is ensure that the voter is who they say they are.

    It’s instructive how some people are panicking that it may be the new law of the land.

  2. Submitted by mark wernimont on 08/09/2012 - 01:44 pm.

    Voter ID undermines?

    The only people against voter I.D. laws are those who rely on voter fraud to win elections. -MW

    Voter ID fraud argument

    NBC2 did an investigation and found list of illegals who admitted they regularly vote in US elections they are ineligible to vote in:

    “Non-existent voter fraud”? take a look at the lists of Democrat voters convicted of voter fraud:

    Pelosi claimed voter ID laws “suppress the vote”? how do these “suppressed voters” drive? buy liquor? cigarettes? visit the local library?…..with ID of course.

  3. Submitted by Tim Saxton on 08/09/2012 - 03:40 pm.

    Title change is misleading.

    This topic has been discussed by many, and in the news quite often. Most people who vote have an opinion on this.

    The old title “Photo Identification Required for Voting.” is what we discuss.”Voter identification” and “Photo Identification” are key words what identify what the propose changed is.

    The new title: “Changes to in-person & absentee voting & voter registration; provisional ballots” Doesn’t mention “Photo Identification” or “Voter Identification”. That makes it vague. It doesn’t say what changes. Vague is scary. Scary brings a “No” vote.

    There has been polls that show people who would vote “yes” to “Photo Identification Required for Voting” would vote “no” to “Changes to in-person & absentee voting & voter registration; provisional ballots”. This shows that the name change would alter the results of the vote.

    If you want to show the changes in a non vague way try this:
    “Change voting & voter registration to require Photo Identification; provisional ballots”.

    *Remove “in-person & absentee” since that covers all voting.
    *Add “require Photo Identification” – this explains how, and key words that the news and voters have discussed.

  4. Submitted by Karen Sandness on 08/09/2012 - 10:03 pm.

    The changed title is indeed the more accurate title. Why don’t the Republicans want the voters to know the full ramifications of a “yes” vote?

    If the aim of the ballot measure is to prevent non-citizens from voting and to prevent people from voting outside their own precinct, then there is no *existing* ID that covers both concerns. A driver’s license does not prove citizenship, and a passport or birth certificate does not prove one’s current address.

    Meeting both concerns would require a whole new system of IDs. Who is going to pay for supplying every adult citizen in Minnesota with a new ID? If the voter has to pay for it, it’s a de facto poll tax, which is unconstitutional. If the state has to pay for it, where is the money going to come from, especially since the Republicans pride themselves on being so against new taxes?

    I’ve found that most people’s initial reaction to the ballot measure is positive until you explain to them that the measure doesn’t define what a valid ID would be and that it would require changes to the state’s entire voting procedure.

  5. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 08/11/2012 - 10:29 am.

    Title shmitle

    The fact that a mere change in title is enough to reverse this vote simply proves that it has no place on the ballot or in the constitution in the first place. This is a vague and divisive issue pushed by narrow agenda. It’s a Bait n Switch.

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