Protecting Voting Rights

Opposing photo ID requirements for voters

 

There are three main reasons why LWV Minnesota opposes photo ID requirements.

  • Photo ID requirements create hurdles for otherwise eligible voters.
  • Photo ID requirements are not necessary for election integrity because no one in Minnesota has ever been convicted of voter impersonation.
  • Photo ID requirements add more costs to our elections

 

For more information:

"Democracy For All?" - LWVMN's documentary and videos on Voter ID

A chart of what the proposed amendment to Minnesota's Constitution would really mean.

A list of organizations which oppose the photo ID/elections amendment.

Additional Resources  

 

Photo ID will create hurdles for otherwise eligible voters

While many people can easily reach into their wallet and produce a current ID that shows who they are and where they live, that is not true for everyone. At any given time, many eligible voters do not have the types of ID that are called for under photo ID proposals. Who is least likely to have a photo ID?

  • 18 percent of elderly citizens do not have a government-issued photo ID.
  • 15 percent of voters earning less than $35,000 a year do not have a photo ID.
  • 18 percent of citizens aged 18-24 do not have a government-issued ID with their current address and name.
  • 10 percent of voters with disabilities do not have a photo ID. 
  • 25 percent of African-American citizens of voting age do not have a current, government-issued ID

Voters who are least likely to have ID also are more likely to experience barriers that would prevent them from getting an ID. They are more likely to have low incomes and not have the money for transportation and to acquire supporting documents to qualify for the ID - ordering a birth certificate from another state can be both time-consuming and expensive. People with disabilities and elderly citizens, especially in rural communities, who no longer drive may have difficulty getting to a county office and waiting in the necessary lines to update their identification.

Proponents of photo ID requirements cite questionable statistics that compare one election to another to support their claim that it will not create too many hurdles for eligible voters. This is misleading - every election has different dynamics that will increase or decrease turnout. And we know that citizens were turned away from the polls when photo ID was implemented in Indiana. 

Photo ID requirements are unnecessary

Photo ID requirements are not necessary to maintain election integrity

 

Allegations of voter fraud usually get big headlines. What does not get headlines is the fact that nearly all allegations of voter fraud turn out to be clerical errors, data matching mistakes, or misunderstandings. In reality, voter fraud is extremely rare. In the 2008 U.S. Senate election recount, lawyers for both candidates looked for fraud in the election. They found none.

Our election system has many checks and balances in the system that ensure the integrity of our elections. Checks and balances that take place before and after the election look at everyone who signed the roster to make sure that voter was legitimate. If there are questions, they are forwarded to county attorneys for further investigation and possible prosecution. Because most of the flagged records are data -entry errors or the result of a misunderstanding, charges are rare. The most frequent type of charge is felons who vote before their civil rights have been restored. These could not be prevented by photo ID; felony status is not  noted on a driver's license.

Our current laws have proven sufficient to deter voter fraud. The penalty can be steep - up to a $10,000 fine and one year in jail. 

When we look at the few ballots that are wrongly cast in an election, there are virtually none that would have been prevented had those voters been required to show photo ID. A photo ID can only prevent  voter impersonation. There are no cases of voter impersonation on the record in Minnesota elections. Election experts are nearly unanimous in their agreement that voter impersonation is not a factor in our elections, due in no small part to the fact that in-person voter fraud presents a high risk of being caught and offers small pay-off.

 

Photo ID requirements create another layer of costly bureaucracy in our elections

In order for a photo ID requirement to be constitutional, a free photo ID must be made available for anyone and Minnesota would have to institute a system of provisional ballots. These costs are estimated to be in the millions. They would be borne by state and local governments, and ultimately be paid by the taxpayer.

And even though the actual ID is free to the voter, there are many hidden costs in tracking down the necessary documents in order to get an ID. This expense - to the government body providing IDs, to the taxpayer, and to the individual voter - would provide no benefit to the community.

True election integrity does not come from band-aid solutions like photo ID - solutions that offer no additional level of integrity and create barriers for some voters. Instead, it comes from improving our processes for registering voters and maintaining our lists, from recruiting more election judges and ensuring that they are well-trained in current law, and from making sure that felons who have had their right to vote taken away know when and how they get it back. 

 

Recent cost estimates can be found here.

 

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Copyright 2014 League of Women Voters Minnesota (LWV Minnesota)