[author's note: I submitted this to the Star-Tribune for publication as a commentary. The automated replied said "If you have not heard from us within 10 days, feel free to place your material elsewhere." That was 11 days ago.]
In Sunday’s opinion column [11/12/11], Lori Sturdevant encouraged the League of Women Voters to fight against the 21st Century Voting Act, commonly referred to as “Photo ID.” She invoked last century’s struggle for women’s suffrage as a motivator to turn back the current ID-to-vote proposal.
The biggest objection proffered is that it would create a “barrier” for people to vote, especially seniors and the “young.”
After consideration of her reasoning, I’m left to wonder if Ms Sturdevant has read the bill.
Senate File 509, which passed the Legislature in May and was swiftly vetoed by Governor Dayton, would provide free voter identification cards to registered voters who lack a state-issued ID. For seniors, this card would have no expiration date so they won’t be inconvenienced by renewals. Perhaps the League could use their organization to facilitate applications for voter identification cards instead of fighting their implementation. In fact, if the League became an authorized agent with the Department of Public Safety, they could reap $5 for each application. Yes, that’s in the bill.
As for students who would like to vote, they would be able to register on election day with a home-state driver’s license or identification card along with a college bill with their current address.
Worse yet, Ms Sturdevant wrote that students “might not be able to [vote] in future elections if a photo ID requirement is in place.” That is not true. The 21st Century Voting Act creates provisional balloting, which allows someone who cannot demonstrate identity or residency to vote on election day, an option not currently available to potential voters.
As long as we’re urging the League to action, according to their website, they are advocates FOR provisional balloting. So why the objection here?
Rather than argue using anecdotes, such as the 96 year old Tennessee woman cited in the column, I prefer to employ facts. After Indiana enacted their voter ID law, participation actually increased by two percentage points, according to a study by the University of Missouri. The study’s authors concluded:
“There is no consistent or statistically significant evidence that the photo ID law depressed turnout in counties with greater percentages of minority, poor or elderly voters. Contrary to conventional wisdom, turnout in Democratic-leaning counties actually increased in the wake of the new photo ID requirements, all else constant.”
I guess that takes the wind out of the implication that photo ID proponents are trying to depress turnout for President Obama’s voters.
I would like to believe Ms Sturdevant was arguing against a bill that would legitimately disenfranchise people. But not after her column of the previous week [11/5/11]. She stated that the support of elected officials for a referendum on a local sales tax, regarding the Vikings in this case, appeared to be so they could “avoid making politically difficult decisions.”
But a referendum on local sales taxes is state law. I think the difficult decision is to go against the referendum requirement. That’s what happened in 2006 when the Legislature exempted Hennepin County from a referendum to make way for a county-wide sales tax to fund the Twins Ballpork [sic].
With that action, the Legislature disenfranchised more voters than the 21st Century Voting Act ever could, even if any of the claims of its opponents were to be realized.
Minnesotans understand the importance of integrity and access to voting with 80% of Star Tribune Minnesota poll respondents in favor of photo ID. It’s too bad Governor Dayton was out of step with most of his constituents. Good thing there are people inside and outside of the Legislature who are working to make sure his veto is not the final word on photo ID in Minnesota.