Minneapolis reports on effects of potential Voter ID law

Yesterday, the City of Minneapolis released a report on the effects of the Republican's Voter ID constitutional amendment. Unlike Ramsey County's analysis, they weren't willing to make any guesses about how much it would cost to implement. The reason is there are just too many unknowns.

Any analysis of Minnesota's proposed amendment is speculative at this point due to the vague ballot language and the need for more precise implementation, funding, and operational regulations. As a result, this report is not intended to be comprehensive but rather it seeks to outline the potential impacts to the City of Minneapolis and its voters, should the amendment be adopted.

They estimate Voter ID would affect 215,000 voters statewide. They also state that these 215K people would have to cover the expenses related obtaining the necessary documents to get a government issued ID. So Minneapolis election officials do not agree with Republicans that obtaining a "free" Government ID would actually be free.

In the report they assess the impact of the following:

  1. implementing provisional balloting. This would replace our current system of same-day registration and absentee balloting.
  2. Eliminating same-day registration.
  3. Eliminating absentee voting.
  4. Eliminating absentee voting for military personnel stationed outside of MN.
  5. Implementing Voter ID for the 2013 election.
  6. Educating Minneapolis residents about the new Voter ID law for the 2013 election.

1. Provisional balloting

A provisional ballot is filled out but is not counted on Election Day. When voters cast provisional ballots they must be allowed to return to the polling location or the election headquarters to verify their identity. The length of time allowed for voters to return and verify their identity varies from state to state but generally it appears that the verification can happen between four and twenty days. As a result, additional staff time must be allotted during that time to certify the provisional ballots of those provisional voters.

According to a 2009 survey, 30 percent of provisional ballots nationwide are never counted.11 Minnesota does not currently have provisional balloting. Consequently, state and local government agencies would need to absorb startup costs as well as ongoing operational costs.

But their conclusions that many to most people who cast provisional ballots never return and turn their provisional ballot into an actual vote is shocking!

Oftentimes, news organizations declare an unofficial winner on the night of the election. It is conceivable that provisional voters may choose not to complete the steps required to verify their identity following an election-which would be required to have their vote counted-especially if they believe the outcome has already been decided. Ultimately, this could lead to a lower number of votes being counted. At the extreme, it could lead to further voter apathy and disengagement.

2. Elimination of same-day registration

The document how state's that have same-day registration always lead the nation in voter turnout. I have made the assertion that the sole reason for pushing this Voter ID constitutional amendment is to eliminate same-day registration. With lower voter turnout, Republicans always do better.

Studies have demonstrated that Same Day Registration supports increased voter turnout. In fact, in those states that allowed Same Day Registration prior to 2006 (which included North Dakota, which has no voter registration requirements), voter turnout is 10 to 17 percent higher than the national average. In Minnesota, it is estimated that Election Day registrations account for between 5 and 10 percent of the total voter turnout and participation statistics.

Furthermore, they report that states with same-day registration do no have to purge data. In other words, corrupt Republicans like Florida Governor Rick Scott cannot shamelessly attempt to eliminate Democratic-leaning demographic groups from the states voter database to help Republicans chances in the upcoming election.

Critics of same-day registration point to the potential of vote fraud. They cannot cite examples as there aren't any, but its their justification as to why we need to eliminate same day registration. The report debunks their claims:

Critics claim that Same Day Registration practices present opportunities for voter fraud. However, election officials from those states which authorize Same Day Registration (and North Dakota) have pointed out that safeguards are in place to prevent any increase in fraudulent activity in comparison to other states. Some of these safeguards include:

  • Requiring some additional level of identification, such as a utility bill, to verify the person's address;
  • Segregating SDR ballots and refraining from counting those ballots until verification certificates have been sent out and undeliverable ones are returned;
  • Restricting the overall number of sites at which voters can register on Election Day;
  • Implementing minimum residency requirements; and
  • Stating and enforcing a deterrent penalty for fraud.

3. Elimination of absentee voting

Their assessment says it all. They have no idea because the 2013 legislature will have to specify how to deal with this.

According to the proposed amendment, "all voters, including those not voting in person, must be subject to substantially equivalent identity and eligibility verification prior to a ballot being cast or counted." This substantially equivalent standard could be extremely challenging to satisfy for voters opting to participate under the absentee voting process currently allowed in Minnesota. Because the proposed constitutional amendment lacks specificity on standards for substantially equivalent, it is impossible to predict how the Legislature may choose to address the legitimate voting needs of those who are unable to participate on Election Day at the designated polling place. [my emphasis]

4. Eliminating absentee voting for military personnel stationed outside of MN

Republicans talk a big game when it comes to our veterans but have a long history of reducing benefits, cutting funding to the VA, restricting the definiition of PTSD so that few can receive help and sending our troops into combat with inferior body armor and substandard armor in their vehicles.

This Voter ID constitutional amendment is no different. It fails to address how military personnel outside of Minnesota would be guaranteed their right to vote. The report states that the elimination of absentee voting would have a huge impact.

This is especially a crucial point for the number of military voters deployed to locations away from their homes-whether elsewhere in the nation or outside the United States. Without clear definitions and standards to prescribe how absentee voters would be served under the proposed constitutional amendment, it is possible that the entire practice of absentee voting could be called into question.

5. Implementing Voter ID for the 2013 election

Minneapolis holds its election for City Council, Park Board and other minor city offices in 2013. Election officials might not know how to implement the new provisions of VoterID until May of 2013. They might have as little as 5 months to implement. This is not a reasonable amount of time.

Assuming the amendment is adopted, the State Legislature would need to adopt standards and provide specific direction on the implementation of the new identification requirements as well as other aspects impacted, such as absentee voting. New rules would need to be drafted, debated, and adopted in final form by both houses of the Legislative during its 2013 Session. When the Legislature is able to reach agreement on the scope of these new rules and regulations, the Governor must then sign them into law. It is likely that the interpretation and implementation of these new rules and regulations would be subject to the administrative oversight of the Secretary of State (Minnesota's chief elections official), which could necessitate additional time to develop, test, and deploy to all counties. Thereafter, training on the new identification requirements needs to take place at the local level to assure that municipal clerks and election judges conform to the new requirements.

Then there's this little factoid about how complex voting reform actually is:

The last major election reform in Minnesota, which focused on absentee balloting, involved a two-year implementation period. The fact that this proposed amendment would provide a fraction of that time to absorb, adjust, and accommodate to major election process reform is cause for extreme concern among local election officials.

6. Educating Minneapolis residents about the new Voter ID law for the 2013 election

Minneapolis would like have a mere 5 months to educate all its citizens about the new Voter ID law. To avoid an expensive lawsuit, they would need to spend significant amounts of money to do it right.

Before implementing a new photo ID regime, Minnesota will need to conduct an aggressive outreach and education campaign to assure that voters understand the new identification requirements-particularly those voters who may not have the government-issued ID and may need additional time before an election to take the steps necessary to obtain that mandated form of identification.13 Given the breadth of changes potentially required under this amendment, it is reasonable to conclude that the scope of such an educational campaign would be far-reaching and would entail significant expenditures of state (and quite possibly local) revenue.

They claim that any education effort must include:

... a minimum educational campaign in Minnesota could be expected to include: mailings to all citizens informing them of new ID requirements and how to obtain a voter ID; production of radio and television public service announcements; purchase of airtime to broadcast these public service announcements using media outlets and during hours deemed to reach large portions of the population; purchase of advertising space in various newspapers with high circulation numbers to advertise new voter ID requirements; and the creation of website(s) to publicize new voter ID requirements. While these efforts-and the associated costs-to educate voters may start with the State of Minnesota, it is reasonable to conclude that local governments would likely bear a portion (even a substantial portion) of these costs and the responsibility for planning, organizing, and conducting various outreach and educational aspects of a statewide coordinated campaign.

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    Eric Pusey's picture
    Eric Pusey

    Minnesota Progressive Project seeks to be the go-to source for progressive politics in Minnesota.