Photo ID proposal a bad deal for Minnesota’s communities of color

A group of DFL lawmakers at the Capitol today spoke out in opposition to a Republican plan that aims to require law-abiding citizens to provide photo IDs in order to keep their right to vote.
“For so many reasons this photo ID bill is a bad idea,” said Sen. Torres Ray, DFL-Minneapolis. “It sounds simple enough, but when you stop and think about the hurdles it would put between our citizens and the ballot box, it’s alarming. I am especially concerned for the disproportionate harm it will do to communities of color.”
While most Minnesotans already have a drivers license or another form of government issued identification, there are an estimated 84,000 citizens that do not, and a great many of them come from communities of color.
“This is about our constitutional right to vote,” said Rep. Moran, DFL-St. Paul. “I know this proposal is not intended to discriminate, but I believe that is exactly what it will do. It’s going to make voting more difficult for thousands of law-abiding Minnesotans, and the brunt of that burden will fall on communities of color.”
“It may be hard to imagine for someone who has had a life that includes a car, a checking account, airline travel and a gym membership, that someone could go through life without needing or being able to get a state-issued photo ID, but these are exactly the people that are going to be shut out on Election Day,” added Sen. Jeffrey Hayden, DFL-Minneapolis.
Lawmakers also expressed concern with the startling lack of clarity in the GOP proposal and the limitless unintended consequences that it could bring about. Sen. Torres Ray pointed out, “The bill does not even say what forms of ID would be accepted, or what citizens can do if an election judge challenges their ID.”
“If President Obama has been forced to address ridiculous claims about the authenticity of his birth, think of what might happen to minority voters in some jurisdictions when they have to present documents to prove who they are,” said Sen. Hayden.
Many other questions are left unanswered: How much will it cost taxpayers to implement? And what will be the impact on our local governments that are consistently asked to do more with less funding? The bill says the photo ID will be provided to eligible voters at no cost, but will that also include the cost of supporting documents needed to obtain ID? Does this eliminate absentee and vote by mail ballots?
“It’s just so risky to start rewriting the constitution until we know what the ramifications will be,” said Rep. Moran.
“As Latino civic leader, I try to inspire people in my community to get involved in their government, and that starts with voting. Creating barriers in the process will reduce the participation of law-abiding Latino Americans in our elections,” added Sen. Torres Ray.
“Yes, majority wins on Election Day, but it’s not a democracy if minorities don’t have voice, too. We should be working to engage all citizens in elections.”

Senator Patricia Torres Ray
Patricia Torres Ray represents District 63, which includes portions of southeastern Minneapolis and eastern Richfield in Hennepin County in the Twin Cities metropolitan area.

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