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Voting amendment debate produces familiar questions — but no agreement on the answers

Representatives of the two sides offered sharply conflicting opinions about the amendment’s potential effects on Minnesota’s voting system.

Voting amendment advocate Dan McGrath, left, and amendment opponent Doran Schrantz offered familiar arguments.
MinnPost photo by James Nord

Folks walking away Thursday from Minnesota’s first public debate on the voting amendment likely left with as many questions — and entrenched opinions — as when they walked in.

That’s because they heard familiar arguments — and sharply conflicting opinions — about the measure’s potential effects from Dan McGrath, head of the pro-amendment group Minnesota Majority, and Doran Schrantz, who represented a coalition opposing the amendment.

Schrantz argued that the amendment’s requirement that voters show an ID would disenfranchise many voters, such as students and the elderly. Opponents also fear the constitutional amendment would force dramatic changes to Minnesota’s election system, such as replacing Election Day registration with a provisional voting system, and significantly changing military and absentee balloting procedures.

“The more Minnesotans look under the hood of this ill-conceived amendment, they’ll see it’s an extreme makeover of our election system,” she said.

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McGrath, however, argued that the amendment’s language is well-crafted and would not produce any of the unintended consequences cited by opposition groups.

He also pushed back hard against claims that the voting amendment would mean “horrible, apocalyptic things to our election system.”

“Everything else about the amendment that you’ve been hearing is wild speculation at best,” he said.

The familiar debate arguments echoed months of legislative bickering and hard campaigning as the two consistently came to different conclusions about the impact and meaning of the amendment’s wording.

Vote No Voter ID protesters
MinnPost photo by James Nord
Voting amendment opponents staged a rally and march before Thursday’s debate.

They fielded a wide range of questions, including whether student ID cards would be accepted as identification, whether voting changes would be better handled by legislation rather than a hard-to-change constitutional amendment, and the extent of voter fraud or disenfranchisement possibilities.

Schrantz repeatedly noted Minnesotans’ support for the current Election Day registration system, and McGrath said it would remain unchanged.

McGrath focused on statistics outlining what he says is significant voter fraud in Minnesota and framed Photo ID as a “common-sense” solution.

Before the debate, voting amendment opponents staged a small rally protesting the ballot question. The evening’s activities came hours after two GOP senators filed an administrative complaint against Secretary of State Mark Ritchie for what they said was an inappropriate campaign against the amendment by an elected official.