Voter Restriction "Could Hit 215,000 Minnesota Voters"

Monday, September 10, 2012

Via Star Tribune:

Showing photo identification is a no-brainer for the vast majority of Minnesotans who have the magic card in their wallets and purses and produce it regularly to conduct even the most routine transactions.

But a strict ID requirement, such as is being proposed in a constitutional amendment this November, can be a significant barrier for anyone who lives off the ID grid. According to the Minnesota secretary of state's office, that number could run as high as 84,000.

In addition to the 2.7 percent of registered voters who appear to lack a state-issued ID, the office estimates that another 4 percent -- 131,000 -- hold IDs that do not show their current voting address.

The amendment would require all voters to show government-approved photo IDs before casting their ballots.

Those affected could be people like Evelyn Collier, 79, and her fellow residents at the Camden Care Center nursing home in north Minneapolis, many of whom had long since let their state IDs lapse. When they needed travel documents for a Caribbean cruise two years ago, the staff spent months trying to round up birth and marriage certificates and other documents needed for a photo ID.

Most of the documents eventually came in, but Collier, an African-American woman born on a farm in Mississippi in 1932, missed the trip for lack of an official birth certificate.

Or 63-year-old Greg Jackson -- that is the name he has used as long as he can remember -- who arrived in Minnesota seven years ago with an Illinois ID and failing eyesight. When he sent home for his birth certificate, he was surprised to learn that his legal name was different from the name he had always used, and which was on his Illinois ID.

Several document requests, assistance by volunteers from Little Brothers-Friends of the Elderly, and a $320 legal name change followed before Jackson obtained his Minnesota ID.

"If it was that hard for me to get my ID, with my impediments, what about all the impediments other people have?" said Jackson, of St. Paul.

Rep. Mary Kiffmeyer, R-Big Lake, the amendment sponsor, said the government would offer free IDs, and that the availability of waivers for those without underlying documents and adaptations of current law by the Legislature could address problems without disenfranchising anyone. The general language of the amendment, if it passes, would be fleshed out by the 2013 Legislature.

But the uncertainty worries advocates for the elderly and poor, as well as students who try to get their fellow students to go to the polls. They fear that the no-brainer for the many will become a barrier for the few -- just enough of a hurdle to keep a significant subset of eligible people home.

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