A close look at the voter ID amendment

The right to vote is the most important obligation of citizenship. A truly democratic society is based upon accessible, free and fair elections. Elections where U.S. citizens, who are eligible voters, are not disenfranchised because of discriminatory, unnecessary state constitutional impediments to their voting.

Article VII of the Minnesota Constitution gives Minnesota citizens a right to vote. The proposed Minnesota voter ID amendment will steal the state constitutional right to vote from many of Minnesota’s currently registered voters. It prohibits the free exercise of the voting franchise to certain groups of Minnesota citizens who are otherwise qualified voters. The proposed amendment classifies at least two types of currently eligible voters: One, those who currently have “valid government-issued photographic identification,” and two, those currently registered voters who do not.

There is no definition of “valid government-issued photographic identification.” The determination of what will be “valid” is presumably left to a new statute. Again there are multiple groups of currently eligible voters who have government-issued photographic identification which may or may not, ultimately, be valid as defined by this statute regarding the validity of their government issued photographic identification, such as public universities student identification cards, drivers licenses, passports, veterans’ photographic identification, etc.

Minnesota citizens over the age of 18, who are competent and not felons, are currently eligible to vote. Thus, the proposed Minnesota voter ID amendment and the undefined statute necessary to effectuate it deny by “debasement or dilution of the weight of a citizen’s vote,” and, in many cases, it will wholly prohibit “the free exercise of the franchise.” Therefore, the proposed amendment violates the 14th Amendment of the United States Constitution.

The other problem with this is: Should a simple majority of those voting be able to take away the rights of a minority of citizens who are otherwise fully qualified to vote?

When contemplating how you feel about the effectiveness of using a driver’s license for voter identification, consider how many instances and prosecutions occur statewide each year for use of fake, phony or altered driver’s licenses by persons for access to bars, automobile purchases, fraudulent check cashing, etc. This is why banks now frequently require thumbprints, and why businesses and banks videotape their customers.

Yet, you probably do not personally know anyone who has successfully committed voter identity fraud. With the ability to access false photo identification through the Internet or simply by using old or borrowed picture identification, the proposed photo voter ID Minnesota constitutional amendment will not stop the person who really wants to cast an illegal vote.

Further, under the proposed Constitutional amendment, there is an inherent lack of fundamental fairness and equal treatment of Minnesota citizens under the law. Many Minnesotans with current valid driver’s licenses never had to produce any documentation when they obtained their licenses or changed addresses. While a citizen who does not have a current Minnesota driver’s license or photographic identification card will be required to provide documentation in order to obtain a state-approved photo ID to allow them to vote. Yet, the proposed amendment will accept a driver’s license as identification to vote without further documentation.

The Minnesota voting system is considered to be a national model of the finest non-corrupt voting system. Currently, Minnesota has one of the nation’s easier voter registration requirements, low voter fraud allegations and the highest per capita voting rates nationally. The proposed voter ID amendment poses a threat to this model voting system and to our democracy. Voting should be easy for any American citizen, and there should be no unnecessary impediments to prevent eligible voters from voting. Unnecessary state constitutional impediments that interfere with voter access to the polls are distressing and an assault on democracy.