Overwhelmingly Popular Voter ID Measure in Hands of Minnesota Supreme Court
In April, the Minnesota legislature approved a voter
ID constitutional amendment, and next
month, the Minnesota Supreme Court will hear oral arguments to decide if
the measure will actually go before voters this November. If it does, the
measure is likely to pass, as an overwhelming 80 percent of Minnesotans support
voter ID, according to a Star Tribune Minnesota poll.
Republicans have promoted voter ID as legislation needed
to prevent vote fraud and “moderniz[e] a 19th-century system of registration,” according
to state Sen. Warren Limmer. The measure would have Minnesota join 30
other states that currently require voters to present some form of
identification when voting.
With an identification requirement, the measure would
eliminate the state’s current “vouching system,” which allows one registered
voter to vouch
for the eligibility of the other voter when registering on election day. To
date, there have been allegations of “vouching” fraud in previous Minnesota
In the 2010 midterms, for example, it is alleged that
Organizing for America group directed members to congregate outside polling
places and assign students to “vouch” for other students they did not know. One
Minnesota precinct had nearly 500 of 800 votes cast by same-day registrants,
with many voters using the “vouching” system.
“It is our intent to eliminate the vouching system in
state Senator Scott Newman (R), the bill’s sponsor. “I believe [it] is
ready-made for voter fraud.”
While the amendment contains a voter ID requirement, the
measure would leave in place the state’s current same-day registration,
absentee voting, and college and military access rules. “We are truly not
targeting any class of voters except those who are attempting to vote and doing
so illegally or not being eligible,” said
Minnesota Republicans passed this
voter ID measure through the legislature last year, but Gov. Mark Drayton (D) vetoed
the bill. In response, the legislature approved a voter ID constitutional
amendment in April, whose passage is decided by a referendum instead of by the
anti-voter ID governor.
the amendment would ask voters at the ballot box if the Minnesota Constitution should
be amended “to require all voters to present valid photo identification to vote
and to require the state to provide free identification to eligible voters,
effective July 1, 2013.”
of voter ID, including the Minnesota ACLU, the League of Women Voters, and
Common Cause, have filed suit to block the measure from reaching voters.
Pursuant to Minnesota Stat. § 204B.44,
the Minnesota Supreme Court has original jurisdiction on election law issues,
so the court will make the first and only judicial determination (absent a federal
question) after oral arguments scheduled for July
Pursuant to an interpretation of Article IX, Section 1 of
the state Constitution, Minnesota courts can strike a ballot question if it is
found to be defective. As a result, opponents argue
the ballot question is “false, misleading, and an incomplete description of
what the amendment would do” and should be struck.
In essence, the anti-voter ID forces contend the ballot
question, as recited above, “omits” elements that would enter the state constitution
if the voter ID measure were approved. The text
itself provides details, including that the ID be made available for free to
those who need it, and that voters lacking ID be permitted to cast a
provisional ballot that will subsequently count if they later present ID.
Dan McGrath of Minnesota Majority, a group in support of
voter ID, believes the language is perfectly clear.
“The heart and soul of the constitutional amendment is photographic
identification,” he said.
As long as the Minnesota Supreme Court agrees with McGrath
and sides with the overwhelming
number of Minnesotans who favor voter ID, the state’s citizens will get to vote
in November on whether they should be required to present identification the
next time they visit the polls.