Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Case Against Voter ID

How many Minnesota voters were convicted of voter fraud in the 2008 elections? Answer: less than 1 percent of the roughly 2.9 million Minnesotans who voted; an estimated 113 convictions. Is this a problem worthy of a permanent change to our state constitution? Before even one person’s constitutional right to vote is taken away from them due to a lack of a photo ID, and before scarce government resources are spent in the implementation of such an expensive program, this question needs serious consideration. 
Notably, of this small number of fraudulent votes, NONE WOULD HAVE BEEN PREVENTED BY PHOTO ID. They were mostly performed by felons who voted (usually due to misinformation) while ineligible. A photo ID wouldn’t have caught this. They weren’t pretending to be someone else.
A majority of Minnesotans voice approval for requiring a photo ID at the voting booth because they already have such an ID, and are unaware of or haven’t imagined themselves in the place of the hundreds of thousands of Minnesota citizens who don’t have one. There is a reason why this proposal has provoked an enormous outcry among people who work with the elderly, poor, disabled, and other minorities. These workers know, more than anyone, that for these groups, the expense and difficulty of obtaining documentation to prove their status (so they can apply for a photo ID) presents an obstacle that shouldn’t be present in the exercise of anyone’s right to vote.
Despite the usual arguments in support of this amendment, the basis for a challenge to a constitutional right must be more compelling than an unproven possibility of uncaught perpetrators. Also, opening a bank account, visiting a doctor, getting on a plane, buying concert tickets, medicine, or groceries are not constitutional rights. They have no place in the debate about requirements to vote.      
Having confidence in our voting system all depends on who you listen to - the many experienced election officials and law experts who have repeatedly verified the integrity of our electoral system, or the people (and they are many) who have something to gain from the disenfranchisement of the voters who would be most affected by a photo ID requirement. The battle for equal voting rights for all U.S. citizens has been long and hard-fought. The enshrinement in our constitution of an obstruction to the right to vote, without making the case for systemic fraud, is wrong.