Most of us do not think twice about having proper identification when it comes to proving who we are. But 10% of Americans do not have acceptable ID that would allow them to vote in some states. Minnesota is the most recent state to join the legislative wave that began in 2010 to increase restrictions on voters and may now become the most restrictive state.
Wednesday morning, the Legislative House in Minnesota passed a constitutional amendment by a vote of 72 to 62 requiring all voters to have government issued photo ID. This amendment will go before the Senate and require a majority vote before the amendment can be placed on a statewide ballot in November.
Photo-ID bills have been signed into law in Alabama, Kansas, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Wisconsin and Ohio. More than five million Americans could be affected by the new rules already in place this year — a number larger than the margin of victory in two of the last three presidential elections.
Minnesota is the third state to achieve this goal via a constitutional amendment, but not all constitutional amendments are equal. From one state to another, what constitutes acceptable photo identification varies. In those states, for example, where any government issued ID is acceptable, EBT debit cards (for those receiving social services), may be used as identification. Yet Mississippi, who also wrote this into law via constitutional amendment, has exemptions for seniors in nursing homes and for individuals who have religious objections to sharing this information on government issued ID, Mike Means of Common Cause Minnesota told me in an interview.
Instead of investing in the hiring of more teachers or firefighters, the state has chosen to focus on voter ID. But because the wording of the constitutional amendment “is ambiguous,” says Means, “it is unknown what impact this will have on seniors, students, the low income and especially people of color.”
Some of the potential problems and expenses associated with this amendment are:
- the amendment will be expensive to implement
- more judges will need to be elected to oversee and interpret this amendment
- there will be a need for public education
- there will be increased litigation costs
Will a drivers license with an old (real) address that does not match ones’ current address prevent you from voting in Minnesota? If there are typos in the spelling of your name or an incorrect middle initial, will you be denied the vote? Everyone, according to Means, will have to double check their ID to be certain every single item is in keeping with the new law so as not to be denied their right to vote.
Minnesota currently has the highest participation of voters in the nation. Yet with the constitutional amendment, Minnesota could become one of the worst as measured by voter participation by creating confusion and disenfranchisement of the low income people, especially people of color, seniors and students.
According to Means, it is possible as a result of the constitutional amendment that Minnesota could wind up with an Eight Track Amendment. The future may bring new methods of identification such as retinal identification or finger prints. Minnesota would be stuck for another 30 to 40 years with the constitutional amendment in spite of technological advances until the voters changed the law again.
The House version of the voter ID amendment will go before the Senate in the next several days, but because the language of the amendment must be exact in both the House and the Senate version, a Conference Committee will likely be created to craft a constitutional amendment that will go back to the full Legislative House before being voted upon. Common Cause Wisconsin, says Means,” will be working to educate the public so that this amendment will hopefully be rejected at the ballot box in November.”
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