A blog to keep current on MPIRG'S fight for social and environmental justice.

Monday, February 13, 2012

I oppose Voter ID and so should you.

On Feb 1st, the Senate Committee on Local Government and Elections met to discuss the possibility of requiring citizens to show a photo ID with their current address before voting. Over 150 people descended on Capitol Room 15 and 30 people stood up to testify and voice their concerns. With MPIRG, I testified to speak out on behalf of my fellow students and our voting rights. The committee hearing, which lasted more than five hours, included testimony from the Secretary of State’s office, the ACLU, the League of Women Voters, and numerous concerned citizens worried about how this measure would impede thousands of students, people of color, low income communities, the elderly, active duty military personnel, and other citizens who at any given time do not have a Photo ID that reflects their current address.

As a student, I argued that it would be difficult for my peers and me to obtain a new ID every election. It would be cost and time prohibitive for an ID that would only last students 9 months to 3 years maximum. For many students, the elections they participate in while in college are their first experiences with voting and the election process. When their first voting experiences are positive ones, it reinforces the necessity to make voting painless and possible for every single person. Although issues of voter fraud have been brought up, the reality of this is that almost all students vote responsibly and passionately.

At the committee hearing, proponents of the bill stated they would offer free IDs to people who needed one. Although they said that people would be given free photo IDs it was unclear where the funding would come from to pay for them. Additionally it’s unclear if people would be compensated if they were required to obtain things like birth, marriage, or divorce certificates, in order to receive their actual photo ID.

Proponents stated the main reason for pushing this constitutional amendment forward was to combat voter fraud. But truly, the reality of this is that voter fraud is nearly nonexistent. Minnesota’s past two elections have been faced with the utmost scrutiny by officials from both major political parties and neither of them found any significant problems with Minnesota’s elections.

MPIRG is opposing this proposed Voter ID bill because it’s a solution in search of a problem, it presents obstacles to voting for otherwise eligible voters, and because Senate File 1577 is vague and doesn’t clearly articulate how the election system would actually work.

The Senate Committee on Local Government and Elections will be meeting again this Wednesday, February 15th at 1pm in Capitol Room 15. I strongly encourage you to show up and show your opposition.

Written by Sydney Jordan

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