By Doug Belden, firstname.lastname@example.org
Posted: 10/04/2012 12:01:00 AM CDT; Updated: 10/04/2012 11:21:24 PM CDT
Voter ID “might look like common-sense reform,” but it will result in “an extreme makeover of our election system,” warned an opponent of the state’s proposed photo ID amendment at a debate Thursday evening, Oct. 4.
Don’t be swayed by “wild speculation” about what the amendment will mean, a proponent told the audience. Stick to the text. “If it’s not in the amendment, it’s not going to happen.”
Doran Schrantz, executive director of ISAIAH, an organization that aims to engage people of faith in issues of race and poverty, squared off in the 90-minute debate at Metropolitan State University against Dan McGrath, chairman of the pro-amendment group ProtectMyVote.com.
With the election less than five weeks away, more than 150 people showed up for the St. Paul event, sponsored by Debate Minnesota, a nonpartisan, nonprofit foundation that sponsors a series of candidate forums each election year.
The proposed voter ID constitutional amendment, which if adopted would require voters to present a government-issued photo ID at the polls, is one of two that Minnesotans will be voting on Nov. 6. The other would add to the constitution the definition of marriage as a man-woman union that currently exists in state law.
One student submitted a question at Thursday’s debate asking whether a Metro State ID would be sufficient to vote if the amendment passes.
“The truth about that question is we don’t know,” Schrantz said.
McGrath said he doubted student IDs would be accepted, but “I’m just guessing on that.” He said students could use an ID from their home state in combination with proof of residence to vote.
Schrantz said the uncertainty over what the amendment will mean is one of the key reasons it ought to be defeated. “We don’t know how it’s all going to play out,” she said. “I think there are tremendous unanswered questions and things that are not figured out. “We have a system in Minnesota that we can have confidence in,” she said. “It’s not easy to cheat in our elections. It’s just not.”
But McGrath said the amendment is not complicated or unclear. In his view, “there’s very few details actually that need to be worked out.” And he said Minnesota has a “significant” election fraud problem, enough to sway the outcome in close elections. He pitched photo ID as a common-sense way to tighten some laxity in the system. “How many of you would keep your money in a bank that did not require identification to make withdrawals?” he asked the audience.
Voter ID has become a popular measure around the country, almost always advanced by Republicans. Since 2001, nearly 1,000 voter ID bills have been introduced in 46 states. Thirty-three states have passed voter ID laws, and 30 will be in place for this November’s election.
Proponents argue photo ID is a relatively painless way to shore up election integrity. Opponents say it’s unnecessary, costly and aimed at disenfranchising the elderly, college students, the disabled and others who tend to support Democrats.
In Minnesota, Republican majorities in the House and Senate passed a bill in 2011 requiring voters to show photo ID. It was vetoed by Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton. But the Republican-controlled Legislature brought the issue back, this time as a proposed constitutional amendment, which Dayton could not veto.
Many of the details of how photo ID would be implemented would be left up to the 2013 Legislature, which would have to pass a bill that Dayton could sign or veto.
Watch the entire debate on The UpTake.