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Voters to Decide on Photo ID Measure

Protection or disenfranchisement? That is the question

Supporters of the amendment argue that the state already has a process for people who are missing supporting documents such as a birth certificate and that the state would provide a free approved ID.

Dan McGrath, executive director of Minnesota Majority, a conservative watchdog group that is leading support for the proposed amendment, said a voter ID would protect the votes of seniors.

"Votes can easily be cast in their names without their knowledge, and other fraudulent votes steal the voice of legitimate voters," McGrath said.

Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman (D) said there were no cases of voter impersonation anywhere in the state in the past two elections.

"What this is is a lot of noise by the right wing trying to keep a lot of good people from voting - particularly seniors," said Freeman. "There is absolutely no need for photo voter ID in the state of Minnesota. None."

Legal precedent

Supporters point to legal precedent as well as high-profile endorsements. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld Indiana's photo ID requirement in 2008, ruling that it "is amply justified by the valid interest in protecting 'the integrity and reliability of the electoral process.' "

A bipartisan federal election reform commission chaired by former Democratic President Jimmy Carter and James A. Baker III, chief of staff to Republican President Ronald Reagan, recommended in 2005 that all states require a valid photo ID. "Photo IDs currently are needed to board a plane, enter federal buildings, and cash a check," the commission wrote. "Voting is equally important."

But "boarding a plane, entering a federal building or cashing a check are not constitutional rights," Kimball said. "Voting is. Unfortunately, many people, especially older people, don't have the identification required under this extreme ballot initiative to exercise that right. This measure does nothing to deter voter fraud.

"The more we talk about the details of this, the more people are taking a second look. We urge people to vote no and send it back to the legislature to craft a fair, bipartisan measure," Kimball said.

Amy McDonough, AARP Minnesota associate state director for advocacy, said: "We're finding that the more we talk to AARP members about the details of this and the lack of details in the constitutional amendment, people are taking a second look. Even if they first thought, 'This makes sense — I have an ID in my pocket; I don't see what's the big deal,' I don't think most voters want to intentionally disenfranchise older people."

Amy Kuebelbeck is a freelance writer in St. Paul, Minn.

Also of interest: Photo ID law's impact.

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