by Dennis Dalman
In the Nov. 6 general election, Minnesota voters will be asked to consider two proposed state constitutional amendments – one limiting marriage to between a man and a woman and one that would require voters have photo IDs before they can vote in an election.
The marriage amendment reads on the ballot as such:
“Shall the Minnesota Constitution be amended to provide that only a union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Minnesota?”
The Voter ID amendment reads as in the following:
“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?”
All sorts of arguments have been made, both pro and con, concerning those two amendments. There is already a Minnesota law that does not recognize same-sex marriage in the state. A constitutional amendment to that effect would require another constitutional amendment to overturn it.
To place an amendment proposal on a ballot, both chambers of the Minnesota Legislature must pass, by a simple majority, the amendment request. That was done by the Republican-controlled House and Senate in regard to the two amendments that will be on the Nov. 6 ballot.
On the ballot, amendment proposals require a simple majority of voters to approve or deny, which means an amendment could pass or fail by as few as one or two votes. If someone decides not to vote either yes or no on an amendment, that will count as a “no” vote.
Amending the state constitution is not a rarity. It has been amended 17 times just since 1980, although many amendment proposals have been defeated throughout Minnesota’s history. Some of the amendments passed since 1996 are the following:
1996: Bonus for Persian Gulf War veterans
1998: Extend use of lottery for environmental trust fund.
1998: To preserve hunting and fishing heritage.
1998: To abolish office of state treasurer
2006: To dedicate the motor-vehicle sales tax to highway and public transportation.
2008: To protect our natural resources and preserve Minnesota arts and cultural heritage by increasing the sales- and use-tax rate.
The voter ID amendment, if approved, will make changes as to how people vote, who will get to vote and the cost of elections. The following is the full text of the proposed voter-ID amendment from the Minnesota Secretary of State’s Office website:
“All voters voting in person must present valid government-issued photographic identification before receiving a ballot. The state must issue photographic identification at no charge to an eligible voter who does not have a form of identification meeting the requirements of this section. A voter unable to present government-issued photographic identification must be permitted to submit a provisional ballot. A provisional ballot must only be counted if the voter certifies the provisional ballot in the manner provided by law. All voters, including those not voting in person, must be subject to substantially equivalent identity and eligibility verification prior to a ballot being cast or counted.”
“In all other states, photo ID legislation has included a wide variety of exemptions ranging from military voters and people with religious objections to being photographed like the Amish, to people with disabilities and nursing-home residents. Since no exceptions are included in this proposal, it will apply to “all voters.” Since this language would now be in the constitution, it could not be changed by any further legislature. The requirement the ID must be “government-issued” instead of “government-approved” means certain forms of ID which are now permitted would no longer be acceptable, including those IDs issued to students from private colleges. There was a bipartisan proposal to permit the future use of new technologies to identify voters, but it was rejected. The result is if the amendment is adopted Minnesota would not be authorized to use more modern means of identification.
“There are two cost factors to all photo ID proposals – the bill paid by taxpayers and the expenses paid by each individual who does not currently have a valid ID that would allow that individual to vote. In Indiana, a state of similar size that recently adopted an ID law; it cost the state $10 million in the first three years to provide IDs. The Minnesota Division of Vehicle Services estimates there are 144,000 voting-age Minnesotans without IDs. A comparison of databases showed there are 215,000 current voters without Minnesota-issued IDs or whose ID has the wrong address – all of whom may qualify for a free ID. Beyond that ongoing cost to the government, all of those individuals without IDs will have to pay the expenses to obtain the documents needed to get an ID, including birth certificates and marriage licenses for women who have changed their names. Some voters born before birth certificates became commonly available may find this process expensive or impossible.
“If you do not have an ID with you on Election Day, you could submit a provisional ballot, which would be filled out but not counted on Election Day. You would need to go to the local election’s office and show officials your ID within a few days so your ballot could be reviewed for possible inclusion, assuming you can find your ID or obtain a new one. Nationwide, 30 percent of provisional ballots are never counted. Since Minnesota does not currently have provisional balloting, there would be startup costs to local and state agencies of $50 million and additional ongoing costs for local governments of more than $10 million that would need to be paid through local taxes. Adopting this new provisional balloting system would trigger oversight by the U.S. Department of Justice under the Help America Vote Act. Election results would be delayed until the end of the provisional voting period, or longer, if rejected voters appeal to the Supreme Court.
Under this provision, a Minnesota voter, voting absentee from another state or country would have to have their identity verified in a way that is substantially equivalent to a voter voting in person in the polling place who hands a photo ID to an election judge. It is not clear yet how this is possible. No other state has asked military and civilian absentee voters to meet these kinds of requirements. This “proof of identity” requirement will affect 250,000 military, overseas and domestic-absentee and mail-in Minnesota voters in presidential elections. This section would also end same-day voter registration as we know it, which is used by over 500,000 voters in presidential elections. Before same-day registrants’ ballots could be counted, the information provided on their voter-registration forms would need to be verified for accuracy in the same way as those who submitted registration forms before the election. That includes mailing each person a non-forwardable postcard and with data-matching with other government databases. Since those processes cannot occur in the polling place, same-day registrants would have to submit provisional ballots, which would not be counted on Election Day, delaying election results.
To learn more about the amendments, visit the following website: www.mnvotes.com.