A controversial bill passed the Senate floor this week on a party-line vote to impose onerous voter ID requirements on our future elections. Photo ID requirements—in conjunction with provisional ballots and voter registration purges—have been used by Republicans across the country to disenfranchise voters and make it more difficult for citizens to cast a ballot.
Republicans often justify the need for voter ID based on unfounded allegations of voter impropriety or a lack of confidence in the security of our elections, which are baseless claims that were a key factor in the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on January 6. Promoting these election conspiracy theories, known as the ‘Big Lie’, is not only reckless but dangerous to our democracy. Voter ID stands yet another reprehensible byproduct of unproven claims of election impropriety.
Minnesotans already rejected onerous voter ID restrictions in 2012 by voting down a Republican-supported constitutional amendment. The Senate Republican majority is actively thwarting the will of Minnesota citizens by attempting to impose voter ID despite our rejection of this proposal through a statewide ballot initiative.
Minnesota prides itself on consistently having one of the highest rates of voter turnout in the nation–this proposal will put that distinction in jeopardy. According to the US Government Accountability Office, voter ID laws have resulted in a 2-3 percent reduction in voter turnout, which would amount to over 65,000 Minnesotans disenfranchised based on the 3.3 million Minnesota voters who turned out in the 2020 Presidential Election. As many as 11 percent of eligible voters do not have the kind of ID that is required by states with strict ID requirements, and that percentage is even higher among seniors, minorities, people with disabilities, low-income voters, and students.
Voter ID laws disproportionately disenfranchise voters of color, transient Minnesotans, and citizens of lower socioeconomic status. According to the ACLU, over 21 million Americans do not have a photo ID, with Black, indigenous, and voters of color disproportionately lacking a photo ID. Nationally, up to 25 percent of African Americans of voting age lack a photo ID compared to 8 percent of white Americans. Imposing voter ID laws in Minnesota will further depress voter participation among minorities and must be rejected.
Provisional balloting would create a ‘maybe-pile’ of ballots in Minnesota—many of which will not be counted—and disenfranchise voters. Approximately 259,000 Minnesota voters were same-day registrants in the 2020 Election but would be required to fill out a provisional ballot in future elections. Provisional ballots unnecessarily burden these voters to provide proof of residency to their county auditor within just a week after election day. According to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, between 2006 and 2016, over 30 percent of presidential cycle provisional ballots cast were not counted.
We should be expanding—rather than suppressing—the freedom of Minnesotans to vote. The Senate should be passing policies that will make voting more convenient by implementing opt-out automatic voter registration, expanding mail-in and absentee voting for people with disabilities and rural voters, and extending early in-person voting periods. (SF 173)