Minnesota Photo ID Law: A Pandora’s Box

Posted on March 23rd, 2012 by

I have been looking over the proposed amendment to the Minnesota Constitution requiring a photo id for voting. Upon reading the latest version of HF2738 It seems that this legislation raises a number of serious questions with respect to implementation.  For example, suppose a Gustavus student wishes to vote in the November election and has a Minnesota driver’s license, but their driver’s license shows their home address which is in another county or state. Will this id qualify? Will they be able to vote and have their vote count on election day? This question is not answered in the legislation.

The law does not specify what counts as a Government Approved photo ID and approval by voters of this law provides extremely wide margin for interpretation after the fact. These interpretations could make the law a relatively harmless nuisance at one extreme or a substantial tool for voter suppression at the other.

Also, the fact that the law provides for a “free government issued id” is far from a satisfactory solution. First, nothing is free. The Secretary of State’s staff time, materials, mailings, all cost tax money which would be funded by tax payers. Second, if I don’t have an approved photo id and have to make a trip to a government office to fill out a form or even if the form is mailed to me and all I have to do is fill it out, it takes my time and is therefore not free. Third, requiring voters to secure a government approved photo id in order to exercise their right as a citizen to vote is simply wrong. It provides one more excuse for people who are indifferent about voting to just stay home. Under our existing system, Minnesota has developed a reputation for strong voter turnout. In non-Presidential elections around 55 to 60 percent of eligible voters actually vote and in Presidential elections the rate jumps up to around 80 percent. That’s pretty good but it still means that in non-Presidential elections 40 to 45 percent and in Presidential elections 20 percent of our neighbors can’t be bothered to get off their sofas and vote.


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