Today, members of the Minnesota House heard two controversial bills that could cost the state millions and hamper voter access in a state that is renowned for progressive election policy.
Minnesota has long boasted above-average voter turnout, thanks, in part, to a decades-old policy that permits eligible citizens to register and vote on Election Day with a zero-rate of voter fraud. Despite lacking evidence of pervasive voter impersonation issues (as well as lacking available funding), state lawmakers are intent on changing the rules governing Election Day Registration and adding a requirement for all voters to present photographic proof of identity before voting.
“An effective, full-scale voter ID program can easily end up costing state taxpayers $20 million or more -- the three-year price tag officials estimated in 2010 for a program in Missouri,” wrote Chris Kromm of the Institute for Southern Studies. “For most states, such a costly program would be a suspect luxury in ordinary times; it's nearly impossible to justify it in today's economic crisis.”
Kromm’s article delves into the cost of implementation, education of poll workers and the public, and free ID for those who cannot afford it, all proposed in House bills 89 and 210.
“This proposal is simply an attempt to manipulate the voting process for political purposes to address an issue which is not a major problem in Minnesota,” editorialized the Willmar, Minn. publication, West Central Tribune last week. “Minnesota should be encouraging voters to participate in the voting process, not making it harder and more difficult to vote.”
The Tribune noted that one of the House bills’ supporters, Rep. Bruce “Vogel could not cite any voter problem in west central Minnesota in justifying his support for the bill” when it was introduced in late January. “Yet he claims that the significant cost of this proposed voter ID bill is justified.”
But, to “solve a minimal problem in Minnesota” for a price of $20 million, the Tribune says, “this bill proposal simply does not compute.”
The House Bill 210 would also put an end to “vouching” for your neighbor to prove their residency when registering to vote on Election Day, one of many ways Minnesotans are able to be part of the democratic process up until the day of an election.
“Minnesota's inclusive election policies have helped to build a strong culture of civic participation across the state,” says Project Vote’s Jennifer Jacquot-Devries, a Minnesota resident. “Enacting the proposed photo ID bill will only make voting more difficult for the very citizens we should be working to engage and empower.”