Voting restrictions outweigh the merits of photo ID

This nation is stronger when virtually every adult is empowered with their constitutional right to vote.

Few restrictions should limit this right, and a change in those limits should only be made when it’s been demonstrated that the rights of the majority are in danger.

All should agree on two principles of a free election. Those who either are not citizens or who have lost their right to vote should not be voting. Every citizen regardless of economic or physical condition, politics, religious belief, race, gender or age must be given an opportunity to vote.

On Nov. 6, Minnesotans will vote on a significant change in voting rights — a constitutional amendment that would require a valid voter identification with a photograph of the individual voting.

If passed, the amendment also says the state must issue photographic identification at no charge. A voter unable to provide a government-issued photograph identification would be permitted to cast a provisional ballot that can be counted only after lawful identification is provided.

The Editorial Board of ECM Publishers Inc. heard presentations by two experts on both sides of this question. Mark Ritchie, secretary of state, opposed the amendment, and Rep. Mary Kiffmeyer, former Secretary of State, is its chief proponent.

After those presentations and some discussion, the Board voted to oppose the voter ID amendment.

Republicans who have proposed the amendment argue that strict voter ID laws are necessary to prevent voter fraud.

The Editorial Board’s primary reason for opposing the amendment, however, is lack of evidence of voter fraud and voter impersonation in Minnesota elections. According to an exhaustive search and analysis of voter fraud by the Carnegie-Knight’s “News21” program, there have been 10 cases of voter fraud and no cases of voter impersonation in Minnesota since the year 2000.

Proponents of the amendment point to 6,200 people who voted in an election whose addresses could not be traced. The inability of following up on the addresses for 6,200 out of 2 million to 3 million voters is not proof of voter fraud and much less conclusive proof that the Constitution should be amended.

The argument that voter ID would cost local, county and state governments millions of dollars has merit. The charge that voter photo ID would make it more difficult for poor people and minorities to vote also supports defeating this amendment.

Proponents counter that the amendment would strengthen the integrity of the voting system and guarantee that the one voting is the one in the photograph, eliminating voter impersonation. The News 21 study showed that of 146 million registered voters in the United States in elections since the year 2000, there were 10 cases of voter impersonation.

The Editorial Board also noted that Minnesota consistently is a leader in voter turnout, in part because it has same-day voter registration that would be eliminated in favor of provisional voting, which some experts believe could reduce the number of voters.

The Editorial Board also stressed that the mechanics of conducting an election should be handled in the Legislature and not by amending the Constitution, which was written to protect voter freedom.

In the final analysis, the empowerment of every citizen to cast a ballot outweighs the prevention of perceived but unproven voter fraud.

This opinion is a product of the ECM Editorial Board. The Record is part of ECM Publishers, Inc.

Visit the Record’s weekly poll to cast an online vote.