Rep. Kiffmeyer, former Gov. Carlson clash on voting amendment’s costs and effects

MinnPost photo by James Nord
Participating in the debate were, from left, Dan McGrath of Minnesota Majority, Rep. Mary Kiffmeyer, former Minnesota Gov. Arne Carlson and Carolyn Jackson of the Minnesota ACLU.

Rep. Mary Kiffmeyer and former Gov. Arne Carlson were once both Republican members of the executive branch, but the two now differ sharply on at least one issue critical to the November elections: Minnesota’s proposed voting amendment.

Carlson, co-chair of the coalition opposing the constitutional amendment, and Kiffmeyer, a former secretary of state who sponsored the measure, squared off at a Tuesday night forum, offering vastly different scenarios about its potential costs and effects.

They clashed not only on the amendment’s price tag but also on whether it would disenfranchise voters or combat fraud.

Kiffmeyer teamed with Dan McGrath of pro-amendment group Minnesota Majority to defend the proposal, while Carlson and Carolyn Jackson of the ACLU argued against it before a packed house at the Maplewood City Hall.

“I haven’t seen you in Republican circles for a while, so it’s nice to see you again,” a smiling Kiffmeyer told Carlson, who broke with the party to support Independence Party candidate Tom Horner’s 2010 gubernatorial bid.

The forum proved livelier and the audience more engaged than in a similar debate in St. Paul last week. But messaging from both sides remained the same.

McGrath and Kiffmeyer attempted to beat back opponents’ “apocalyptic” predictions that the amendment would dramatically alter same-day voter registration and procedures for military and absentee voting.

Carlson and Jackson hammered away against proponents’ claims of widespread voter fraud.

Rep. Mary Kiffmeyer
MinnPost photo by James Nord
Kiffmeyer claimed that many of the cost estimates for implementing voter ID are overstated.

“The photo ID amendment will add integrity to our election system,” Kiffmeyer, who was secretary of state from 1998 to 2006, said at the start of the forum. “My motive and my mission are about the integrity of the election system.”

She said the amendment would cost only in the low millions to implement, largely to provide free IDs to those who need it and to launch educational campaigns about the procedures. Otherwise, proponents said, very little about Minnesota’s voting system would change other than the elimination of same-day vouching for unregistered voters at the polls.

Carlson and Jackson offered a wildly different picture of the amendment’s impact.

The former governor, who served from 1991 to 1999, cited a study estimating the cost at roughly $100 million. He and Jackson also warned audience members that the amendment could represent a “radical overhaul of our election system” by hindering absentee balloting and requiring all Election Day registrants to cast two-step provisional ballots.

Gov. Arne Carlson
MinnPost photo by James Nord
Gov. Arne Carlson rejected the dark picture painted by amendment proponents.

Voting amendment proponents “have been painting a picture that is dark and getting darker by the minute,” Carlson said. “They would have you believe there are criminals hiding behind the voting booth.”

Projecting the costs and consequences of the amendment are difficult because, if passed, lawmakers will have to agree to specific enabling legislation during the 2013 legislative session. Although recent polls show support for the amendment has waned some, it still remains ahead a month before the Nov. 6 elections.

Kiffmeyer said lawmakers and Gov. Mark Dayton would have a constitutional mandate to enact that legislation on time if it passes.

“To think that liars, cheaters and stealers exist all around us but somehow only angels come to vote is naive and lacks common sense,” she said. “The Photo ID amendment will keep it easy to vote but hard to cheat.”

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Comments (10)

  1. Submitted by jody rooney on 10/10/2012 - 10:51 am.

    I still keep chuckling evey time I see this

    I have a friend who voted many years ago before becoming a citizen voted using her drivers license. She wasn’t trying to commit fraud she just didn’t know she shouldn’t.

    When I shared this story with a friend she made an astute observation. My friend probably looked like the majority of Minnesotans, many of the new immigrants don’t.

    Is this voter fraud or thinly disguised racism?

  2. Submitted by Amy Bergquist on 10/10/2012 - 11:27 am.


    “[Rep. Kiffmeyer] said the amendment would cost only in the low millions to implement, largely to provide free IDs to those who need it and to launch educational campaigns about the procedures. Otherwise, proponents said, very little about Minnesota’s voting system would change other than the elimination of same-day vouching for unregistered voters at the polls.”

    I attended the debate last night and there is a lot I could say. But for now, I’ll make two points:

    (1) If you listen carefully to the proponents of the amendment and know MN law, they essentially concede that the amendment would do nothing to limit vouching. “Vouching at the polls doesn’t necessarily have to go away under the amendment, McGrath added, but it would be vouching for someone’s residence, not their identity.” Link:
    As former Secretary of State Kiffmeyer should know, vouching proves residency, not identity. See Minn. Stat. 201.061, subd. 3(a). So no change to vouching under the amendment.

    (2) Kiffmeyer and McGrath insist that election-day registration will continue, and that election-day registrants won’t have to cast provisional ballots, but they don’t have an answer for how that will work. The amendment requires all voters to “be subject to substantially equivalent identity and eligibility verification prior to a ballot being cast or counted.” So whatever “eligibility verification” happens for people who register in advance has to be more or less the same as the eligibility verification for people registering on election day.

    Here’s the problem. When a person registers in advance, the Secretary of State’s office verifies eligibility by checking data from the Social Security Administration, the National Death Registry, the Minnesota Department of Health, the Department of Public Safety, Drivers and Vehicle Services, the United States Postal Services National Change of Address database, the Department of Corrections, and the Minnesota Supreme Court Administration. Plus they send a postal verification card to confirm your address. So to get “substantial equivalence” for election day registration, you’d need to create a way for election judges to consult all these databases on the spot during registration. (Currently, election-day registrants are subject to verification after the fact, and they face stiff consequences if they are caught lying.)

    Some day down the road, I suppose it might be possible to create a single, consolidated online database that would do the trick, and do it instantaneously, but no such thing exists right now.

    Kiffmeyer and McGrath say if localities can’t get electronic poll books or don’t have high-speed internet access, they can use hard-copy printouts of “challenge lists” to verify eligibility – therefore there would be no unfunded mandate, no costs to local governments. Kiffmeyer and McGrath do not explain how those 8 databases the Secretary of State uses could be reduced to a single, alphabetized, hard-copy challenge list, as McGrath suggested in the debate last night. And keep in mind that the names on those lists change daily.

    There are at least two other, much cheaper, ways to achieve “substantially equivalent” eligibility verification for all voters. (1) Eliminate election-day registration and require all voters to register in advance. (2) Eliminate all eligibility verification prior to election day (the North Dakota model). But you never hear proponents of the amendment talking about these options, because they know that option (1) would be highly unpopular, especially with the 500,000 voters who rely on election-day registration, and option (2) would increase the risk of the purported harms of ineligible voters casting ballots.

  3. Submitted by Steve Titterud on 10/10/2012 - 11:41 am.

    “To think that liars, cheaters and stealers exist all around us”

    Mary Kiffmeyer may actually be reporting here on what she sees in her own caucus. Confused, she instead ascribes it to the world around her.

    Perhaps a mirror might help.

  4. Submitted by Gerald Abrahamson on 10/10/2012 - 11:47 am.

    Can’t legally ask for what doesn’t yet really exist.

    In order to legally implement mandatory Voter ID, voters must have an ID they can show and then vote. Thus, the issuance of the ID comes before the requirement of showing that ID. Thus, states must have already issued the required ID to all residents before the ID can be required to be shown. As no state has documented issuing such IDs to all residents, no state can legally require voters to show an ID they have not received or been issued. Once an ID has been issued, and the state can prove the ID was issued and received by the person who it identifies, only then can the state require that person to show that ID to verify who he/she is.

    Therefore, the following is the ONLY legal process by which a state can require an individual to produce an ID in order to vote (“Voter ID”):

    1. Voters have the right to vote per the US Constitution–and the right to vote may not be abridged by the state.
    2. The state claims an identity card is required in order to protect the public from fraudulent voting at places where votes are cast in person.
    3. The state does not–at this time–issue any identity card for the purpose of identifying voters.
    4. In order to require a “Voter ID” to be presented at the time of voting in person, the state is required to issue a “Voter ID” at no charge to any and all voters.
    5. If the state chooses to require “Voter ID” in order to vote in person, an alternative form of purchased or non-purchased identity verification (such as a state driver’s license) may be used if the state chooses to accept such alternate forms of verifying a voter’s identity.
    6. The state shall issue to each and every individual (based on some as-yet-undetermined criteria) a free identity card that may be used for “Voter ID” if the individual does not have such an identity card OR if the individual requests an identity card (even if the person already has other forms of identification accepted for the purpose of voting in person or otherwise)..
    7. The state shall bear the cost of obtaining any documents required by the individual to obtain an identity card. This is required in order to comply with the US Constitution, which bans head and poll taxes (both direct and indirect).
    8. The state shall be prohibited from implementing “Voter ID” until such time as it certifies to the federal govt it has issued a valid “Voter ID” or other acceptable form of voter identification to all potential voters in the state. This document must be personally sworn and signed by:
    A. the Governor at the time the form is prepared for submission,
    B. the head(s) of the state agency responsible for issuing identity cards to voters, and
    C. all leaders of the state legislative bodies.
    9. Given all voters in a state have a valid “Voter ID” of some form (per 8, above), it is reasonable to expect voters to keep and protect that ID and be able to show it when needed (i.e. when they go to vote in person).
    10. Penalties for fraud by a state: If a state certifies all voters have been issued an identification card, and at least one person has been denied the right to vote due to lack of an identification card being issued to that person (for any reason), the state shall pay an immediate cash penalty of $25-million dollars per individual (in constant 2012 value)–to each and every individual who was denied the right to vote as a result of the state’s absolute failure to perform its duty to the public.
    11. Personal penalties for fraudulent representation by the individuals listed in 8A, 8B, or 8C: Each and every individual who swore and signed the document submitted to the federal govt shall be charged with felony voter fraud and shall be sentenced to ten years in a federal correctional facility with no time off their sentence for any reason whatsoever.

  5. Submitted by Scott Anderson on 10/10/2012 - 11:51 am.

    Voter ID

    What I think is funny is that many years ago when Mary was Secretary of State she came to speak to our Rotary group. We had a very nice conversation about voter fraud. It was shortly after the 2000 Presidential election. She told me at that time that there is always going to be a very small percentage of fraud but that it’s usually a small group of people from each party and their efforts will cancel each other out. She told me that it really isn’t issue. Apparently things have changed. 🙂

  6. Submitted by David Greene on 10/10/2012 - 12:42 pm.

    Kiffmeyer’s Worldview

    “To think that liars, cheaters and stealers exist all around us”

    What a sad, sad way to live.

  7. Submitted by jody rooney on 10/10/2012 - 03:26 pm.

    Based on Kiffmeyer’s view

    She must have been hanging with the wrong crowd. I guess that’s what you get for hanging around with big business.

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