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“It’s common sense,” declare billboards encouraging Minnesotans to support voter ID in the upcoming election. Presumably supporters of the marriage amendment also regard it as “common sense” to define marriage as being “solely between one man and one woman.”
From a political standpoint, I can understand why supporters of voter ID are using the “common sense” line. It resonates with many Minnesotans’ impression of themselves as being responsible, down-to-earth citizens. With its explicit appeal to the common denominator, though, the “common sense” logic is alarmingly similar to the kind of logic that might have been employed to defend previous American injustices.
“Of course women aren’t suitable for voting or holding public office. Their realm is the home! It’s just common sense.”
“Naturally one must be able to read and write if one is to be informed enough to vote. That’s simply common sense!”
“There’s nothing wrong with separate but equal schooling—it’s equal, right? Of course it’s best to keep people of different races separate when it comes to education; that’s plain common sense.”
You know who was uncommon? Harriet Tubman. Susan B. Anthony. Martin Luther King. Harvey Milk.
There are some proudly uncommon names in Minnesota history too.
It was uncommon for Roy Wilkins to lead the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People through the hardest days of the Civil Rights Movement.
It was uncommon for Eugene McCarthy to stand up to President Johnson and declare the Vietnam War an atrocity that needed to end.
It was uncommon for Hubert Humphrey to take the podium at the 1948 Democratic National Convention and make a passionate speech insuring that his party would take a stand in favor of civil rights.
“To those who say,” Humphrey declared, “that we are rushing this issue of civil rights, I say to them we are 172 years late! To those who say, this civil rights program is an infringement on states’ rights, I say this: the time has arrived in America for the Democratic Party to get out of the shadow of states’ rights and walk forthrightly into the bright sunshine of human rights!”
If it was late then, it’s far later now. If it’s now “common sense” to turn back the clock and disenfranchise a group of disproportionately poor, minority voters in the name of solving a fictional problem, if it’s now “common sense” to amend our state constitution to reinforce a discriminatory law that’s already in effect, then the time has come for Minnesotans to remember the lessons of our proudly progressive legacy and to be uncommon once again.
The case against the voter ID amendment is remarkably easy to make. Setting aside the legitimate fear that this measure would disenfranchise thousands of Minnesotans, especially the elderly, we’re unconvinced that voter fraud is major concern in Minnesota — and even if it were, the measure that’s being put before voters would do little to fix the problem. More than 100 felons have been convicted of voting illegally in the 2008 election, but a photo ID law wouldn’t have stopped them from voting, because voting status doesn’t appear on a driver’s license.
Furthermore, the devil is in the details — especially when voters are being asked to vote on a proposal that has no details. The photo ID proposal has no implementation language, so we’re being asked to simply trust that our legislators will figure out a fair and affordable way of making sure that no voters are disenfranchised by the photo ID amendment. Frankly, what we’ve seen from St. Paul on this issue gives us little confidence in our legislators.
If our election system needs fixing, then the Legislature should fix it. That’s its job. We suggest the creation of a bipartisan election reform committee to write a complete bill, with a fiscal note on its costs, leaving nothing to hide. Protect the voting rights of the elderly and disabled, as well as our troops serving overseas, and utilize the best technology available, including pollbooks and facial recognition software to prevent fraud. Make sure that rural townships and sparsely populated counties don’t go broke trying to meeting unfunded mandates. If “vouching” is a problem, then nullify that provision in the current election law.
Such legislation might require a year or two to perfect, but what’s the rush? We’re not on the verge of seeing Minnesota’s democracy undermined by people who are willing to risk fines and imprisonment in order to cast an illegal vote.
The Rochester Post-Bulletin NAILS the entire argument against the Voter ID constitutional amendment.
Here are what is misleading:
- The ballot language says all voters would be required to present valid IDs to be able to vote, but not all voters would be required. For example, absentee voters would not be required to present valid IDs.
- The ballot language says that the state would provide free IDs to all eligible voters when the law would only provide IDs to people who don’t already have government issued IDs.
- The ballot language only talks about Photo ID being required when the bill would actually institute provisional balloting.
Here is what the ballot language omits:
- Fails to disclose that it would institute provisional balloting. The next legislature would have to set it up.
- Fails to disclose that only government-issued IDs are valid.
- Fails to disclose that it would end same-day registration.