FREE SPEECH ZONE | The Little Engine that Could: How Minnesotans Beat the Voter ID Amendment

“Victory has a thousand fathers,” President John F. Kennedy said after the biggest test of his leadership. Nothing could be more true of the defeat of the “voter ID” amendment in Minnesota, except that the victory was won by a thousand fathers and mothers.The startling, come-from-behind victory was the fruit of thousands of courageous conversations and actions by women, men, nonprofit organizations and government officials all over the state, leveraged in the final days by a media campaign.That nonpartisan grassroots effort was a tidal wave that the amendment proponents failed to anticipate and could not withstand.The victory over this ill-conceived ballot question shows that when our rights are threatened, Minnesotans can and will step up. The victory not only safeguards voting rights today but will chill political temptations in the future to try to stack the deck against the common good.The seeds of the defeat lay with the little-known Voting Rights Coalition, which was formed in the early 2000s and began to battle against a photo ID requirement in the 2011 legislative session. The coalition was made up of nonpartisan nonprofit organizations, including League of Women Voters Minnesota, Citizens for Election Integrity, the American Civil Liberties Union, TakeAction Minnesota and the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits.In 2011, photo ID proponents offered a bill at the state Legislature that contained some of the same provisions later set out in the proposed constitutional amendment. Members of the Voting Rights Coalition, senior citizens, women living in shelters, the disabled, students, county election officials and township representatives testified that the bill was costly and harmful, and there was no need for it. Despite their efforts, the bill passed but was vetoed by the governor.Shortly after the veto, several legislators announced that they would pursue a constitutional amendment to require a photo ID for voting. Continue Reading