Wednesday, March 14, 2012
Originally published in the Star Tribune:
“I went to war for this country, but now I can’t vote in this country,” said 86-year-old World War II veteran Paul Carroll.
Last week, Mr. Carroll was turned away from his polling place in Ohio because his driver’s license had expired in January and his new government-issued Veterans Affairs ID did not include his home address.
Mr. Carroll risked his life to protect our freedoms from the worst evils our world has ever known, but because of a restrictive photo ID law, he could not exercise the very freedoms he fought to protect.
That’s just plain wrong.
On March 4, thousands spoke out against restrictive voting laws as they marked the 47th anniversary of Bloody Sunday — when voting rights organizers were beaten and tear-gassed as they tried to march from Selma, Ala., to the state capitol at Montgomery.
Speaking about the violent struggles many Americans endured to attain the right to vote, my friend and colleague, Congressman John Lewis, who was beaten on that frightful day, rightfully reminds us that “it’s important for those that were not even born, not even a dream, to look what happened, know the price that was paid.”
Here in Minnesota, a photo ID constitutional amendment is advancing through our state Legislature despite the growing, vocal opposition of Minnesotans from all walks of life.
Just as Mr. Carroll experienced in Ohio, a photo ID amendment in our state would put unnecessary burdens on Minnesotans to exercise their constitutional right to vote.
It would also cost our state millions and drive up local property taxes as cities pay for the new restrictions. This is at a time when thousands are still out of work.
What would photo ID really mean for Minnesotans? Let me put it into perspective.
The number of people affected by this amendment would fill Target Field over 17 times. That includes 215,000 registered voters who don’t have a Minnesota driver’s license or ID card with a current address on it as well as 500,000 Minnesotans who use same-day voter registration, which would end as we know it.
From its founding, America has always moved in the direction of greater inclusion when it comes to voting rights. Photo ID goes against the very freedoms for which people like Paul Carroll and John Lewis risked their lives.
Our country has gained far too much to turn back and make it harder for hundreds of thousands of Minnesotans to vote.
One vote denied would be one too many. And that’s a stain on Minnesota that no state legislator should support.
Keith Ellison, a Democrat, represents Minnesota’s Fifth Congressional District in the U.S. House.