By Leigh Pomeroy
How would you like to pay for a program that creates more government, raises your taxes and purports to solve a problem that doesn’t exist?
You wouldn’t, would you? But that’s exactly what you’d be doing if you vote “yes” on the proposed voter ID constitutional amendment.
This proposed amendment claims to combat voter fraud, which is someone knowingly voting illegally by representing himself as another person or by voting more than once. Yet these cases are infinitesimally rare. For example, The Washington Post reports that nationwide a Carnegie-Knight investigative reporting project “found 10 cases of alleged in-person voter impersonation since 2000,” which represents “about one [case] for every 15 million prospective voters.”
One reason why voter fraud is so rare is that in Minnesota such illegal behavior is punishable as a felony with possible jail time and fines up to $10,000 — a stiff cost for a single vote.
So what could the proposed voter ID amendment cost Minnesota taxpayers? Here are some numbers:
* According to a report by Citizens for Election Integrity Minnesota, the amendment will cost Minnesotan “between $36.5 million and $77.6 million to comply with its likely requirements” while Minnesota voters who currently lack government photo identification “will need to spend between $16 million and $72 million to get the documents necessary for the free ID if they wish to vote.”
*In 2011, a Minnesota Management and Budget report on a similar proposed voter ID bill then in the Legislature stated that the bill would cost “roughly $32 million in startup costs for the state, and another $24 million for counties.” Even this more conservative estimate comes to over $18 per registered voter.
* A 2012 report to the Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota estimated that Minnesota counties would have to spend over $25 million in new computer equipment alone to comply with the law. The same report also stated that “roughly 700,000 eligible voters may be affected by the proposed amendment.”
These, of course, are estimates. But we have already seen in other states the burden that such laws have placed on taxpayers. For example, “Indiana had predicted spending $700,000 on new voter identification cards. In reality Indiana was forced to issue many more cards than previously anticipated, spending $10.023 million on new voter identification cards” (Humphrey report).
Collectively, we the undersigned have been election judges for dozens of elections. We start at 6 a.m. on election day and sometimes don’t finish till as late as 10 p.m. at night. For this we receive a modest stipend and no overtime for our work. We don’t do this for the money but for our belief in the importance and integrity of our election system. Ask us: Have we ever come across voter fraud? The answer is a resounding no!
Instead of stopping a problem that doesn’t exist, the proposed voter ID amendment in fact creates a new problem: disenfranchising many legal Minnesota voters. The secretary of state’s office estimates that as many as 215,000 Minnesota voters lack a valid Minnesota photo ID. Aside from the cost to taxpayers for the mandated free ID, many of these legal voters may be deterred because of the difficulties and costs in obtaining the required IDs.
Many are senior citizens, both Republicans and Democrats who have voted in every election since they became eligible to vote — a span of 50 years or more. What right do we have to tell these Minnesotans they can’t vote because they lack the proper ID?
The bottom line is that the proposed voter ID constitutional amendment is a costly, government-expanding, discriminatory solution looking for a problem.
The only logical vote is a no vote on the proposed voter ID amendment.
Leigh Pomeroy, Richard Wheeler, Emily Myers and Daryl Arzdorf, all of Mankato, have served as election judges. Pomeroy also ran for Congress as a Democrat.
By Leigh Pomeroy
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