Wednesday, June 20, 2012
Originally published in the Star Tribune:
Article by: WALTER MONDALE and ARNE CARLSON
When we buy a product, we try to make certain we are getting what we want. We like to think of ourselves as smart shoppers.
We owe no less diligence when it comes to voting on a constitutional amendment -- particularly one that dramatically changes the way we vote. The voting right is the crux of a democracy. Countless Americans gave their lives in order that we may have this remarkable gift.
We in Minnesota lead the nation in voter turnout, and our elections are the most honest. We have recently gone through two very close elections and recounts without a single case of fraud.
There is a reason why -- our insistence that election laws be designed in a bipartisan fashion. That is key. No party should have an election advantage.
Unfortunately, the voter ID constitutional amendment was passed by the Legislature on a strict party-line vote. Not one Democrat in either the House or the Senate voted for it. Not one.
Further, this proposed amendment does not have its origins in Minnesota, nor does it come about as a result of legislative studies of recent elections. It is a product of an organization known as ALEC, which is the creation of the Koch brothers, who amassed their fortunes in oil and who live in Florida. The goal of ALEC is to influence legislators across the nation.
The overall goal of this amendment is largely to eliminate election-day registration, directly affecting more than 500,000 Minnesota voters. The new law will require a government-issued photo ID listing a voter's home address. This can be challenging particularly for students, the elderly, the military, absentee voters or anyone who moves.
In the case of a student, their driver's license (the presumed acceptable ID) carries their home address, but not their college address. For a student from Rochester attending St. Cloud State University, it would mean not being able to vote in St. Cloud but only in Rochester, some 150 miles away. How many of us would be willing to drive 150 miles each way in order to vote?
For the elderly, it is a problem of having a driver's license with the updated address of the nursing home or retirement facility. In addition, many simply no longer drive.
Traditionally, we have always made it relatively easy for the elderly to vote, and we have always encouraged participation on the part of younger voters. Under this new system, it will be most difficult.
The amendment would create a rather complicated setup whereby a voter without the proper government-issued voter ID card could obtain a "provisional ballot," which would not be counted unless the voter returned with the "proper" identification. Hence, election results would not be known for days, and election challenges would be numerous. It is a lawyer's dream.
In addition, the whole system of absentee ballots will have to be revamped, including that affecting our soldiers overseas. There currently is no plan for how to do this.
Surprisingly, there are also two glaring omissions in the proposed amendment. The first is that it does not specify an acceptable government-issued ID. A passport would not qualify, nor would a regular student ID. At this time, the assumption is that a Minnesota driver's license or a newly designed government-issued ID card would be used.
The second major omission concerns costs. Certainly, we should know the price of what we are buying. Amendment proponents have kept this from us. However, independent analysis indicates that the multi-million-dollar costs will be transferred to local governments and added to our property tax bills.
Here is what Randy Maluchnik, a member of the Carver County Board and president of the Association of Minnesota Counties, wrote: "This process would require local governments to print special ballots, purchase new equipment, hire and train additional election judges, and pay for storage and security of provisional ballots." The cost: "Millions of dollars every election season."
If approved, this amendment also will burden state taxpayers with millions of dollars more in order to provide free IDs to the thousands of people who will need them. This all comes on top of an impending deficit of approximately $2 billion that will confront the next Legislature, not including the payback of the $2.4 billion "borrowed" from our local schools.
The irony here is that this amendment is another unfunded mandate from the state -- the very type that originators of this proposal regularly rail against.
Frankly, it is hard to understand why we would cast aside election-day registration, institute a highly complicated two-ballot system that will cost millions and increase taxes -- all to solve a problem that does not exist.
Our preference is for a return to a legislative process that studies a problem first and then creates a sensible and affordable bipartisan solution. This amendment falls short on all counts.
Walter Mondale, a Democrat, was vice president of the United States from 1977 to 1981. Arne Carlson, a Republican, was governor of Minnesota from 1991 to 1999.