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As you all know, the US elections are tomorrow. I know that some of you live and vote in Minnesota, and tomorrow will be deciding whether to pass the Voter ID law. My experience voting overseas has been frustrating and confusing to say the least, and made me realize just how important it is that we think about the consequences that our voting laws can have on the ability for people to vote. I think the Voter ID law is a very important issue that can have some long term consequences and will disenfranchise a lot of people from voting. I hesitated to bring politics into this blog, but in the end, decided that it was such an important issue that at least I wanted to share my opinion. I encourage you to read the following and consider voting against the amendment. If you are in favor of the Voter ID law, I would love to hear your opinion. If you’re not interested in this issue, thanks for reading up to until this point and tolerating that I included a little bit of politics in my blog. I think that this article outlines a lot of the issues with the amendment in its current form, and I would highly recommend reading it. (http://mankatofreepress.com/editorials/x234169419/Our-View-Voter-ID-not-as-simple-as-it-seems).
If you are looking for more information, here’s a longer, more complicated summary of the major issues with the amendment. Even if you are in favor of the idea of the amendment, I think that the way it is written currently will have many negative unintended effects.
( I must thank my friend Amy Zdrazil for compiling a lot of the following information).
The law’s intention is to discourage voter’s fraud. However, extensive research has found voter’s fraud to be an almost non-existent issue, and the amendment in its current form will not prevent voter’s fraud when people use absentee ballots (which is the most common type of voter’s fraud). So the whole system they are trying to create is a new bureaucracy to solve nothing. Voting is a right and we should be very careful before we limit peoples’ rights.
A summary of the research:
News21 reporters sent thousands of requests to elections officers in all 50 states, asking for every case of fraudulent activity, including registration fraud, absentee ballot fraud, vote buying, false election counts, campaign fraud, casting an ineligible vote, voting twice, voter impersonation fraud and intimidation. This study turned up 10 cases of voter impersonation. With 146 million registered voters in the United States during that time, those 10 cases represent one out of about every 15 million prospective voters.” (http://www.minnpost.com/politics-policy/2012/08/cases-voter-id-election-fraud-found-virtually-non-existent)
Second, the law will create a variety of new steps in our voting system, which will be very costly and create a lot more bureaucracy. For example, provisional balloting, which we don’t have set-up. This means we will spend millions of dollars to set up a new system. Even supporters of the new system agree it will cost set-up money – “Nelson [a supporter] estimated the first-year implementation costs at just $2.9 million.” The State of MN has found it could cost much more, A study prepared by the Minnesota Management and Budget officials estimated that it would cost about $32 million to startup the voter id system. (http://minnesota.publicradio.org/display/web/2012/09/13/politics/supporters-opponents-voter-id-requirement-cost-disagreement/)
Third, continuing with cost, there is the cost of IDs. Think about people who go to the food shelf. For us, to spend $17.25 to get an ID is not a big deal. For someone who can’t even buy food, $17.25 is a big deal. So what are they supposed to do? Not vote? Ok, so we (the taxpayers) pay for their ID. Then how do we evaluate whose ID to pay for and whose not to pay for? (more bureaucracy!) So let’s say we only pay for poor people’s IDs. Then what about us? That means, because we can afford to pay for an ID, we are essentially paying for voting (aka a poll tax). Which is illegal according to the constitution (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twenty-fourth_Amendment_to_the_United_States_Constitution). So now the taxpayers are paying for everyone to have an ID. And this will cost MORE money! – “Indiana spent $12 million in the first three years of its implementation, not including the costs associated with obtaining birth certificates or other documents.” (http://mankatofreepress.com/editorials/x234169419/Our-View-Voter-ID-not-as-simple-as-it-seems)
Moreover, there are significant social justice issues. The poor and the old are the least likely to have state IDs. They are also the ones who would have the most difficulty in obtaining IDs. How many of them will be disenfranchised because they won’t be able to get an ID? – “Nearly one in five citizens over 65 — about 8 million — lacks a current, government-issued photo ID, a 2006 Brennan Center study found. Most people prove their eligibility to vote with a driver’s license, but people over 65 often give up their license and don’t replace it with the state-issued ID that some states offer non-driving residents. People over 65 also are more likely to lack birth certificates because they were born before recording births was standard procedure.” (http://www.aarp.org/politics-society/government-elections/info-01-2012/voter-id-laws-impact-older-americans.html)
There is also the issue of military and overseas voting – “Contrary to the assertions that military members will not have any problems meeting the new voting regulations because they have a photographic identification for getting onto a military base, this ID card does not have any address on it, let alone a Minnesota address showing which precinct one is eligible to vote in.” (http://minnesota.publicradio.org/display/web/2012/10/26/photo-id-will-make-it-harder-on-military-voters/)