So, what happened? Progressive groups saw that the support was broad but shallow. They fought a campaign focusing on the burdens that the law would put on seniors and others, the costs to taxpayers and problems that would arise because of ambiguous wording. One big problem: The details of the actual law, as opposed to the amendment, would be up to the state legislature to decide. Loose like South Carolina's? Or strict like Pennysylvania's? Would military and student IDs be allowed? Would allowances be made for the elderly? In other words, voters were asked to buy a pig in a poke that could affect them next time they cast ballots.
Minnesotans didn't buy into the proponents' efforts to make it seem that, without voter-ID, a boatload of Willy Hortons would be impersonating real voters on Election Day. Their ads belied their claims that the measure was not racially motivated:
These days, most political appeals to racial anxiety are subtle. The official spokesmen of the national voter ID movement speak smoothly and euphemistically about the "illegal alien" and "urban" voters who are purportedly committing fraud, even as they forcefully deny any racist intent.Uh-huh to that spokesman.
But in Minnesota, the pro-voter ID consortium wasn't subtle at all, publishing a cartoon depicting people lined up to vote: the first person in line was an African American in prison stripes; the second was a mariachi player in a sombrero.
(A spokesman for the consortium told Minnesota Public Radio it was "coincidental" that the felon attempting to vote was African American, and that the person in the mariachi costume was "supposed to be an illegal immigrant.")
Dan McGrath, executive director of TakeAction Minnesota, told Froomkin that the group landed "a punch in the gut to a national movement to suppress the vote." Perhaps. It was certainly an encouraging outcome. But most states that have passed voter-ID laws have not put them up for citizens to decide. And while the courts at the state and federal level delayed several of these laws for this year's election, they will be in force the next time voters go to the polls unless there is a concerted effort against them between now and then.