Ellison holds voter ID forum in St. Louis Park

by Nickalas Tabbert

Minneapolis citizens got the chance to share their opinions about voting no to the voter ID amendment Monday night.

Rep. Keith Ellison led a forum that included Sen. Steve Simon, Dr. Josie Johnson and a University of Minnesota student.

Approximately 175 people were in attendance at the Sabes Jewish Community Center in St. Louis Park. Ellison led the discussion and fielded questions about the voter ID ballot amendment scheduled to be voted on this November.

A June poll showed 58 percent supported the voter ID amendment.

The question currently reads:

"Shall the Minnesota Constitution be amended to require all voters to present valid photo identification to vote and to require the state to provide free identification to eligible voters, effective July 1, 2013?"

Some of the debate about the issue centers on fraud. Republicans believe the bill is a way to sure-up voting fraud and make people prove their identity.  DFLers say the requirement would not prevent the small amount of fraud that currently exists.

Audience members questioned who would be affected if the amendment passes and what the cost of implementing the required voter identification would be.

Simon said Minnesota is envied for its same-day registration ability, which would be taken away if voters approve the measure.

Alex Erickson, a Political Science senior at the University, said many students rely on same-day registration for voting, and that having a photo ID requirement could create a division between college students.

University students would be able to vote because their student IDs is an acceptable form of government-issued photo identification. Students going to non-public schools would not be, however.

Erickson said being able to vote while in college increases the chances of young adults developing a habit of voting later in their lifetime.

Military voting would also be limited, Erickson said, because absentee voting would not be accepted overseas.

Mai Thor, an advocate for the voting rights of disabled citizens and Ellison’s re-election campaign community organizer, said changing the amendment would set the standards higher for disabled voters.

A vote without a proper photo ID would require voters to fill out a provisional ballot – meaning their vote might not count if they don’t present proper ID at some point, Simon said.

He also said a blank vote will count as a NO vote.

Ellison said the cost of implementing the voter ID for Ramsey County would be approximately $2 million. Provisional ballots alone will raise property taxes as a result, city and county officials have said.