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Editorial: Vote 'no' on poor plan for voter ID

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Our state constitution is the basis of Minnesota's government and the rights of all its citizens, including the right of every citizen of legal age to vote.

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These rights are why Section 1 of the Minnesota Constitution's Bill of Rights simply reads: "Government is instituted for the security, benefit and protection of the people ..."

Voting remains a precious right that should be protected. Government should always be striving to protect the right to vote, not restrict it.

Changes in a state constitution should be made on a rare occasion and in a bipartisan manner.

Minnesotans on Nov. 6 face a decision on a constitutional amendment about voter identification.

Supporters claim the amendment is needed for election integrity and prevention of voter fraud. It seems a simple solution on its face to present a photo ID at the polling place to prove who you are. One could hope that it would be that simple.

Sadly, this voter ID amendment appears to be a solution looking for a problem as election fraud in Minnesota is virtually nonexistent.

There are also many unknowns about this amendment that should concern voters.

n Requiring a photo ID in a constitutional amendment prevents government in the future from using new technology methods for identification purposes, which may be better than photo ID recognition. Frankly, available technologies already have made physical ID cards unnecessary in many cases.

n Voters actually will not see the exact wording of the amendment on the ballot. And the state no longer prints the full amendment proposal in newspapers across the state to educate voters.

n Citizens are being asked to vote on an unclear and incomplete amendment, which leaves many of the details undefined and to be determined by the Legislature at a later date.

n Politicians supporting voter ID even do not fully understand the implications of this amendment. One local politician said that voter ID for mail-in ballots could be confirmed by the voter just writing their ID information on their ballot. Then how would the voter's ballot be secret anymore?

n Other unknowns are the requirements for polling sites and mail-in ballots. Many precincts in Minnesota have moved to mail-in ballots and no longer maintain polling sites due to facility and staffing costs. What is to happen to rural townships using mail-in ballots?

n Another politician supporting the amendment said we already know what the details are because the Legislature already passed a bill in 2011 and that the details in that vetoed bill are a great starting point. Yet there is no guarantee that any future bills would include those details. In addition, that bill was vetoed due to concerns of the unfunded mandate for local governments and that it would violate the federal Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act.

n The major unknown of voter ID is the cost to local governments -- townships, cities and counties. Local and state officials have estimated the cost of this amendment from $30 million minimum to $50 million or higher. Proponents claim the costs will not be that high, but cannot prove it.

This voter ID amendment reminds one of the maxim "don't buy a pig in a poke." Voters should remember that and beware of this amendment.

Minnesota has long had one of the highest voter participation rates in the nation. Making voting too difficult for Minnesota voters facing hardships -- the poor, the homeless, the military or absentee voters -- is not in the interest of our state and the empowerment of voters.

If Minnesota's election law needs fixing, the responsibility lies with the Legislature and the executive branch to figure out what needs to be fixed, build the political capital in a bipartisan manner to pass the legislation and override any governor's veto if necessary.

Changing Minnesota's constitution is serious business and should not be taken lightly. Utilizing a constitutional amendment process in order to achieve a political objective when the legislative process proves too difficult is not Minnesota nice.

Legislating-by-constitution for voting rules is not the way to govern. It also makes future changes in voting rules, when needed, even harder to accomplish.

We believe that Minnesota remains a fair state that wants all eligible voters to vote if they so choose. Minnesotans should vote "no" on the voter ID amendment and send this issue back to the Legislature to find a workable solution.

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