Minnesota needs voter ID

With a fair amount of attention, a well-conceived bill to require photo IDs for voting was introduced in the Minnesota Legislature this session.

This would be important and long-overdue election reform, but it has been stymied by DFL leadership.

With a new Republican majority at the Legislature, the bill probably will be passed this session, one way or another.

Opposition by DFL leaders to this commonsense measure persists, even though more than 80 percent of Americans favor it, according to a recent Rasmussen Reports poll. Older polls of Minnesotans also showed high support levels.

Regardless of party, legislators and others often focus on fraud as it relates to photo ID. DFLers claim there is no substantial fraud to eradicate, and Republicans regularly note there simply is no adequate system in place to detect fraud. Clearly, though, requiring photo IDs would dissuade people who might be inclined to or intent on corrupting our elections.

Beyond matters of integrity, almost always buried when the requirement of photo ID is discussed, is how it could radically improve election administration overall.

The proposed legislation would provide for modern Election Day operations, including electronic poll books instead of old-fashioned paper rosters still used in our state.

Electronic poll books interface with photo IDs in much the same way as the technology Minnesotans comfortably use to purchase fishing and hunting licenses.

One of the best and most versatile options for electronic poll books is produced by MinnesotaâÄôs own Datacard Group. It is estimated we could equip every precinct with electronic poll books for less than $30 million, with the return on investment taking only three years. The combination of photo ID and electronic poll books would provide several benefits.

The technology would save counties thousands of dollars in data-entry expenses after every election; savings are estimated to be up to $45,000 per election in Hennepin County alone.

New registrants would simply swipe their photo ID cards to populate the fields in the stateâÄôs computerized voter-registration system, rather than writing out a card to be data-entered later, as happens now. This could speed up the voting process considerably and eliminate lines for the approximately 20 percent of voters who register on Election Day. Implementing photo ID and electronic poll books would eliminate data-entry errors, including misspellings and double entries. Sign-in lines would disappear, as there would be no need to line up by parts of the alphabet to sign in.

There are, however a few consequential challenges. For one thing, there will be options on how to equip citizens with IDs.

It probably makes sense to give state ID cards to voters who canâÄôt afford them; the estimated cost of doing that is less than $30,000. Also, there will be some difficult scenarios, like those experienced by overseas and absentee voters and nursing home residents, which will have to be addressed.

Certainly, legislators are clever enough to figure out how to deal with these issues. The implementation of photo ID for voting is long overdue and worth applauding in terms of election integrity. It also is worth the effort for cost savings and more efficient election administration.