By Rep. Mary Kiffmeyer, Guest Columnist
There has been a lot of misinformation about the photo ID voting requirement being spread around lately, much of which is meant to make aspects of voting under a photo ID requirement seem difficult. Rest assured, this could not be further from the truth.
Minnesota is not the first state to attempt to strengthen the integrity of the voting process in this way. Currently, 33 other U.S. states possess some sort of voting identification requirement; 17 of which require the voter’s photo. Moreover, several countries around the world, including Canada and Mexico, employ some form of voting identification.
The first thing you need to know is that the photo ID amendment would simply require a voter to show a state-issued valid form of identification, something which at least 98 percent of registered Minnesota voters already have. This proof of identification would include a state ID card, a driver’s license, a U.S. passport, a U.S. military identification card or a tribal ID card.
For those select few who do not already possess a valid government issued ID, the amendment also includes a provision requiring the state to make voting IDs available to the public, completely free of charge.
There is also no change to current constitution voting eligibility requirements which give you the right to vote if eligible. You simply must be 18 or older on Election Day, a U.S. citizen and a resident of Minnesota for at least 20 days. You also cannot vote if you are a felon without rights being restored or under guardianship without the right to vote.
Mail balloting, absentee voting and same-day registration in Minnesota will continue if voters approve the amendment this November. There is not one word in the amendment to eliminate these methods of voting. The current Minnesota absentee ballot (which can be viewed on the Secretary of State’s Web site) already asks for a form of eligibility verification through a driver’s license number or Social Security number. The only difference is that, as with military and overseas absentee ballots, these boxes would become a requirement for a vote to be counted.
Mail balloting, under the amendment, would allow for a local voting official to provide a witness signature to confirm that the voter presented a form of identification.
Voters who forget their wallets on election day would be allowed to cast a provisional ballot, a simple system that 44 other states already employ to ensure every single voter has the opportunity to vote. Voters who cast provisional ballots will have time to verify their identity with a local election official (this includes any city, township or county office) between Election Day and the official certification of the election. Once a voter’s identity is verified, their provisional ballot will be counted toward the total vote count.
Members of the Armed Forces deployed overseas would most certainly not be disenfranchised if the amendment passes. These voters are protected federally under the MOVE Act and UOCAVA ballots and thus are not affected by state laws. Not even an amendment to the State Constitution can alter military balloting.
Even for those with a religious objection to being photographed, provisions can be made for a non-photographic ID. These include government-issued ID cards with a fingerprint in place of the photo, or the words “valid without photo.” The Minnesota Department of Vehicle Services currently provides an exception for such individuals when applying for a government-issued ID. People who fill out the form will be granted a variance when applying for a state-issued ID card.
The ballot title and question that will appear at the polls Nov. 6 will look like this:
“Photo Identification Required for Voting: Shall the Minnesota Constitution 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? • Yes • No.”
Under Minnesota law, an unmarked box on a constitutional amendment counts as a “no” vote. Be sure to take some time researching other states that already have voter ID requirements and get accurate information from all sides before you cast your vote Nov. 6.
Mary Kiffmeyer, R-Big Lake, is a Minnesota state representative and a former Secretary of State. She was the chief author on the photo ID constitutional amendment bill.