OPINION | Stopping the Photo ID Amendment is as important as “Right to Work”


Earlier this year, union members across Minnesota mobilized to successfully stop the proposed “Right to Work” constitutional amendment from passing the state legislature and moving on to the November ballot. Initial opinion polls indicated our prospects for success looked bleak. But we waged an aggressive effort to educate union members, the public, and legislators. And we prevailed. We stopped an unfair, unsafe, unnecessary constitutional amendment from reaching the ballot, defeating the corporate CEOs who wanted to see it pass. In defeating “Right to Work,” we protected our right to collective bargaining.

Now we need to step up in the same way to defend voting rights for all Minnesotans. The same folks who pushed “Right to Work” in Minnesota  now are pushing the photo ID constitutional amendment that will be appearing on the November ballot.

No matter what anyone says, the photo ID amendment is not about curbing alleged voter fraud, as supporters claim. The photo ID amendment is all about creating bureaucratic hurdles to make voting more difficult for thousands and thousands of law-abiding Minnesotans — Minnesotans whose constitutional right to vote may be denied if the amendment passes.

What the photo ID amendment is all about is something very sinister: voter suppression. If passed, the amendment will make it more difficult for young people, for seniors, and for deployed military personnel to vote.

If passed, the amendment will end same-day voter registration and will make voting more difficult for anyone who recently has moved. And guess who moves a lot? Low income families and working families struggling to make ends meet in this economy.

Let’s be frank. The groups of voters whose voting rights will be threatened tend to be voters who ally with labor and our endorsed candidates when it comes to election time.

The proposed amendment to require photo ID could not be any more partisan in origin: the amendment passed the legislature with only Republican votes. Not one Democrat in the state legislature voted for the amendment. Not one.

So, if requiring photo ID for voters seems like a reasonable idea to you, ask yourself: why did only Republicans vote for it in the legislature? Do they have a partisan interest in seeing photo ID pass? You betcha.

Minnesota has had several close elections in recent years: for U.S. Senate in 2008, for Governor in 2010, and for several state legislative races in 2010. A new law that stops a few thousand eligible voters from voting — or even a few hundred — could change the outcome of elections for statewide office and determine which party controls the legislature.

Remember, those election recounts for US. Senate in 2008 and for Governor in 2010 withstood intense scrutiny. The integrity of Minnesota’s election system is second to none. During the 2008 Senate recount, candidate Norm Coleman’s attorney said: “Maybe it’s the law, maybe it’s the people of Minnesota. We don’t have election fraud.”

So the proposed photo ID amendment is extreme, it’s unnecessary — and if that’s not enough — it’s expensive. Implementing the amendment could cost upwards of $50 million. The burden will fall to local townships, cities, and counties — already struggling with budgets. They’ll be forced to cut vital services or raise property taxes to make up the difference.