Ryan Holeywell is a staff writer at GOVERNING.E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Minnesota voters will be the only ones in the country this November who will decide whether to implement a voter ID system similar to ones adopted in other states throughout the nation over the last two years.
The proposal, which would require all voters to show valid photo identification before voting, is an end-run around Gov. Mark Dayton, who has previously vetoed the state legislature's attempts at passing similar bills.
Instead, the legislature has referred the issue to voters, who will decide whether to enshrine a voter ID requirement in the state constitution. The policy would also require Minnesota to issue photo identification at no charge to voters who lack it. Voters who arrive at the poll without valid ID would only be able to cast provisional ballots, which would be counted if voters later returned with valid ID.
The constitutional amendment, which would take effect July 1, 2013, is opposed by a broad swath of organizations including the state offices of the AARP, League of Women Voters Common Cause, the ACLU. They say it's an attempt to disenfranchise voters and that few examples of voter impersonation actually exist.
Support is led by an organization known as Protect My Vote, which argues that voter ID laws are necessary to protect the integrity of the election and prevent voter fraud
The amendment also includes language that says all voters "must be subject to substantially equivalent identity and eligibility verification prior to a ballot being cast or counted."
Secretary of State Mark Ritchie has interpreted that to mean a dramatic shift away from a tradition enjoyed by many Minnesotans: the ability to register to vote and cast a ballot on the same day.
As it stands, voters can register to vote or update their voter information at the poll and then cast a ballot; elections officials take steps to verify voters' information after the fact. The change would mean verification would be needed beforehand, which would be impossible in many situations, Ritchie argues.
Protect My Vote insists that the amendment wouldn't do away with same-day registration.
Ritchie also says the requirement that all voters be subject to the same verification standards threatens the ability of troops overseas to cast mail in ballots. But Protect My Vote also disputes that claim, saying federal laws ensuring military voting would supersede the state constitutional amendment.
A non-profit that surveyed all of the state's 87 county attorneys found that they investigated just seven cases of voter impersonation related to the 2008 election, and they got no convictions.
And a news investigation of voting records in all 50 states since 2000 turned up just 10 possible cases of voter impersonation in that time. Studies like those have lead to criticism that voter ID laws like the one being considered in Minnesota attempt to solve a problem that doesn't actually exist.
Supporters of voter ID in Minnesota say voter fraud is "nearly impossible to detect and prosecute" and argue that voter ID laws deter against more than just cases of fraud related to voter impersonation.
GOVERNING Politics is the place for news and analysis on campaigns and elections. If there's a ballot measure in California, a legislative election in Alabama, a mayoral election in Anchorage or a governor's race in Rhode Island, GOVERNING Politics probably is writing about it. We love everything about state and local politics, from polls and campaign ads to policy debates and demographic trends.