Since mid-summer, Bluestem has been reading reports in Greater Minnesota newspapers detailing the concerns of local officials about the potential costs of the voter restriction amendment.
Given that much of Greater Minnesota local governments are struggling to deliver basic services, wasting time and money on imposing photo ID –which doesn’t address the problems of felons voting–seems like a big misdirection of money better spent elsewhere.
A headline today underscores this understanding. The Winona Daily News’ Nathan Hansen reports in Voter ID costs in Winona County could reach $1 million:
If voters approve the so-called Voter ID amendment Tuesday, the costs to implement it in Winona County could reach nearly $1 million, according to estimates by county officials.
But since the amendment doesn’t stipulate the requirements of the voter ID system — the state Legislature would be asked to create them and to decide whether the state or individual counties pay to implement them — many counties can only guess at the final costs.
The Winona County estimate is based on work from the Minnesota Association of County Officers. Winona County Auditor-Treasurer Sue Rivers said costs would be comparable to the similarly sized Stearns County, with estimates ranging anywhere between $435,000 and $965,000.
In Fillmore County, Auditor-Treasurer Shirl Boelter said the county has only been able to guess at what would be required. If electronic pollbooks are needed, for example, costs would be between $76,000 and $180,000, Boelter said. Char Meiners, Houston County’s auditor, has estimated poll books for her county would run a comparable cost, at about $150,000. . . .
Read the whole article. It’s an eye opener.
Mankato Free Press: Is it fear or is it real?
In Are Voter I.D. concerns overblown or real?, veteran reporter Mark Fischenich reports:
Amendment opponents and elections officials in Minnesota say that provision could end Election Day registration and dramatically change absentee balloting, possibly impacting voting by soldiers serving overseas and eliminating mail-in balloting by rural townships.
Former Congressman Tim Penny of Waseca has signed on as co-chair of the organization “Our Vote Our Future” because he objects to the amendment for a variety of reasons, including the language to be added to the constitution that isn’t spelled out on Tuesday’s ballot.
“The amendment is a lot more involved and a lot more detailed that you would be led to believe by the wording of the (ballot) amendment,” Penny said. . . .
Spokester for the other side? Serial fabulist Tony Cornish:
. . .Cornish, who is unopposed for re-election to the House, has spent some of his campaign funds this fall on pro-amendment radio ads. He said some Republicans are keeping their heads down in relation to the amendment, saying they just wanted to give voters the right to decide the issue.
“I did it because I believe in it, and I think we need it,” the five-term Republican said. “I support it wholeheartedly.”
Penny, a Democrat while in Congress and now an independent, said he’s bothered by a process where voter rights are determined via a proposed constitutional amendment drafted and enacted solely by one party. And he said the complexity of the questions surrounding the amendment and its potential ramifications only reinforce that the language shouldn’t be enshrined in the state constitution.
“I’ve always said, ‘The more people learn about this amendment, the less they’re going to like it,’” Penny said.
Read Fischenich’s entire article.
Fergus Falls: Questionable fraud and access
In Voter ID Amendment a question of fraud, access, Fergus Falls Journal staff writer Darla Ellingson reports:
Minnesotans are being asked to use their vote to determine how they will vote in the future.
The voter ID amendment, coming up on the Nov. 6 ballot, has the state of Minnesota divided. The proposed amendment pushes for stricter requirement of showing a government-issued photo ID. Some say that would limit access to voting and have high costs. . . .
. . .More specific estimates have been done by most local officials, including in Otter Tail County. According to the Windley, implementation costs are estimated at $2,000 for a town of 500, plus two additional precinct staff would be needed. This does not include the cost of new electronic voting machines which could cost $56,800 for the cheaper model or $140,900 for the more expensive model — which could mean anywhere from about $4.60 to $8.80 per local voter. . . .
While other states have already adopted voter ID restrictions, they include automatic and universal exemptions for many types of voters. While these were brought up in the Legislature, they were all rejected.
The news from Winona, Mankato and Fergus Falls echoes earlier reports collected by anti-amendment group, Our Vote, Our Future. Click of the link to read them “below the fold.”
Consensus among local election officials about price, complications of voter restriction
After months of controversy and debate, there is consensus among local nonpartisan election officials across Minnesota: they are alarmed about the costs, complications and consequences of the Voter Restriction amendment — and the decided lack of detail and answers.
“When the trusted, nonpartisan local officials who run America’s premier election system tell us they’re alarmed that this poorly-written amendment will be expensive, complicated and lock out eligible voters — and that even they don’t know how we would implement or pay for it — we need to listen,” said Luchelle Stevens, campaign manager of Our Vote Our Future. “Minnesotans should take these concerns to heart and vote No on the Voter Restriction amendment. Let’s send it back to the Legislature to make them get it right.”
The following local nonpartisan election officials, representing 20 counties and cities from across Minnesota, have spoken on the record of their serious concerns and unanswered questions. Even after months of debate, they are still saying:
- “There are just so many unknowns.”
- “The lack of details is troubling.”
- “They’re going to be astonished at what this would cost us.”
- “It’s going to be back on the taxpayers.”
- “How many people simply won’t bother to vote?”
- “Things were not properly planned for.”
Here’s a collection of statements that OVOF assembled:
- Becker County Auditor–Treasurer Ryan Tangen: “If the Voter ID amendment passes, it could cost Becker County as much as $500,000 … ‘There are just so many unknowns, like how the provisional ballot process will be handled.’”
- Blue Earth County Elections Director Patty O’Connor: “‘They are not understanding, I think, what they are putting into law.’ A strict reading of the legislation passed last week leaves serious questions about whether some Minnesota soldiers serving overseas will be able cast an absentee ballot, O’Connor said … ‘It’s going to be a whole new ball game.’”
- Cass County Auditor–Treasurer Sharon Anderson: “‘Mailed balloting would no longer be allowed because voters do not vote in person where they can show identification.’”
- Dodge County Elections Administrator Sara Marquardt: “It could soon cost Dodge County taxpayers a lot of money if the proposed Voter ID Amendment passes, Dodge County Elections Administrator Sara Marquardt reported to Dodge County commissioners…”
- Fergus Falls Election Administrator Lynn Olson: “That provisional ballot amounts to an unfunded mandate … ‘Who’s going to pick up the cost? It’s going to be back on the taxpayers.’ … Depending on how readily available the government-issued IDs are, Olson is also worried about Fergus Falls’ elderly population … Olson singled out permanent residents of nursing homes as a prime example.”
- Goodhue County Chief Deputy Auditor–Treasurer Amy Hove and Finance Director Carolyn Holmsten: “This eligibility verification section is perhaps the most complicated part of this amendment … As election officials we are not sure how this would work. We also know of no other state that requires their military or civilian absentee voters to meet this type of requirement. This section would also end same-day registration as we know it.”
- Houston County Auditor Char Meiners: “‘I think we’re going to go through a lot of expense and a lot of effort for a provisional balloting system where most of the provisional ballots won’t even count’ … Who could wind up have their votes thrown out after being placed in provisional ballot envelopes? Military personnel serving overseas, shut-ins and nursing home residents, college students, hospitalized citizens, even ‘snowbirds’ and others who vote via absentee ballot.”
“‘I don’t think this was well thought out and that things were not properly planned for or addressed … I don’t know who’s going to pay for it but I certainly don’t have it in my budget.’”
- Hubbard County Auditor–Treasurer Pam Heeren: “‘I think they’re going to be astonished at what this could cost us … there’s so many unknowns it’s hard for us to put a price on it.”
- Isanti County Auditor Terry Treichel: “I consider Minnesota’s election system as one of the best if not the best in our nation. I will always take great pride in having been a part of Minnesota elections during this time. If adopted, the amendment would require a system of provisional voting. Changes would be made to election day registration and absentee voting. Vouching for residents in our nursing homes will almost certainly end … The added costs to elections cannot be pinpointed exactly but it is obvious that elections will be more complex. With the added complexity comes significantly higher cost, which more than likely will be borne by property taxes.”
- Kittson County Auditor Marilyn Gustafson: “The wording of the amendment could bring an end to mail-in voting, creating an added expense for elections … If the mail ballot is eliminated, it would mean an extra $96,000 in election expenses. Gustafson estimated that building a voting hall for every township that no longer has one would cost $750,000.”
- Mower County Auditor–Treasurer Doug Groh: “‘In Mower County, I do not have a concern in the integrity of our elections … You’re going to have increased cost to implement the election process.’ … Groh speculates the process of mailing a ballot could end.”
- Nicollet County Auditor Bridgette Kennedy: “… it initially might seem like a no-brainer that voters should prove their identity with a state ID card. But the potential negative implications require digging a little deeper. And fixing problems later will be difficult if the requirement is enshrined in the state constitution.”
- Olmsted County Director of Property Records Mark Krupski: “… estimated that the voter ID amendment would cost the county an extra $200,000 per election cycle to cover additional staffing costs and voter education … It is unclear how much of that cost would be picked up by the state.”
- Otter Tail County Auditor Wayne Stein: “‘They haven’t actually laid out a lot of the detail as to how it would be implemented if it actually would get passed.’”
- Ramsey County Elections Director Joe Mansky: “… if voters approve the amendment, the county would have to spend up to $1.7 million to install polling place computers and educate voters about the photo ID requirements. Meanwhile, cities would pay an additional $200,000 for elections judges, ballot boxes and training … Those costs are not one-time expenses … The county would likely have to pay similar amounts every two-to-four years to replace the machinery and repeat the voter education campaign.”
“Clearly, we do not currently have the ability to do the on-the-spot verification that … I think would be necessary given the language in this amendment … I think the methodology that they have chosen here will be archaic on the first day that it is implemented.”
- Rice County Auditor Fran Windschitl: “To start up and maintain enforcement of the law, it will cost taxpayers $170,000 initially, and $25,000 on each presidential election day.”
- Rochester City Clerk Judy Scherr: “After 32 years of working in elections, Scherr said, she is concerned with all the unknowns surrounding the amendment … ‘My biggest concern is those people who are eligible to vote actually get to vote. How are disabled people, senior citizens and others going to vote if they can’t get to a place to get a government-approved ID?’ Scherr said there are lots of questions about how the change would affect absentee ballots that are mailed in and the potential for election results to be delayed because of a new provisional balloting system.”
- St. Louis County Auditor Don Dicklich: “… the lack of details on how the amendment would be enforced is troubling. He said many hundreds of voters in remote parts of the county will be affected. ‘It will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars just to build accessible polling locations … unless we are able to ask them to drive a long way to another township that has a polling place. In which case, how many people simply won’t bother to vote?’ Dicklich’s office recently estimated the total cost to the county for complying with the voter ID amendment could cost county taxpayers between $500,000 and nearly $1 million for the 2014 primary and general elections.”
- Scott County Auditor Cindy Geis: “As the chief election official in Scott County, Cindy Geis is often asked whether she supports the voter ID question that will be on this fall’s ballot. Her answer: ‘It depends on what laws follow it. They’ve written the amendment, but not the laws that go along with it,’ Geis explained. ‘Sure it’s free to citizens, but is it increasing property taxes? I don’t know,’ said Geis, noting that there is no pot of money identified to implement voter ID and the state versus counties’ roles are still undefined.”
- Steele County Auditor Laura Ihrke: “… the proposed Voted ID amendment could cost the county close to $100,000 … Ihrke said that estimation may be conservative … ‘If it passes, a lot of what will happen is unknown … A lot of things still haven’t been worked out, it all depends on what the Legislature decides … Is the money going to come from somewhere else? That still has not been determined.’”
Our Vote Our Future is the statewide multi-partisan campaign to defeat the voter restriction amendment that will appear on Minnesota’s November 6, 2012 general election ballot. For more information, please visit www.OurVoteOurFuture.org or follow @OurVoteMN.
Photo: Chief author of the bill in the Minnesota House, Mary Kiffmeyer fights a war on voters.