It's true, I love voting. I love doing my civic duty. It makes me feel all accomplished and proud to be an American. (I am not however proud that whenever I say I'm proud to be an American, I hear Lee Greenwood singing "God Bless the U.S.A." in my head. I'm proud to be an American, where at least I know I'm freeeeeeeee.)
Over the last couple weeks, Andy and I have been anxiously awaiting the arrival of our mail ballots. Because our county is so rural, the county made a switch to mail ballots for all residents except those who live immediately in the county seat long before I started voting. It's a pretty handy system. We get our ballots a couple weeks before the election, have the ballots witnessed by another registered MN voter (or a notary) and then make sure the ballots are mailed in by election day. It's a system that makes it really easy to participate in the democratic system (and shouldn't a democratic system be easy to participate in if it's to function properly?) and as far as I can tell, it's almost impossible to commit voter fraud since you only get one ballot per registered voter. I suppose I could show up at an actual polling station and try to vote again, but honestly, voting once enough for this gal.
I filled out my ballot last night and today my ballot will be winging its way down to the courthouse to be opened and counted on election day. There are a lot of issues and races on the 2012 ballot that I care passionately about, but there's one particular ballot question that's really got my teeth on edge:
"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?"
Let's look at this carefully. On the surface, this looks pretty reasonable. Benign, even.
I mean, I'm a U.S. citizen and I have a photo id, so this shouldn't affect me at all. But wait a minute, when I cast my vote last night, I didn't show a photo id to anyone. I show Andy my blank ballot, I filled out the ballot privately, and then Andy witnessed it.
If this amendment passes, it could mean the end of mail ballots. It could mean that I have to show up at a polling station on election day to cast my vote. Let's consider that the nearest polling station to me is 55 miles away. Let's also remember that early November is not exactly known for sterling weather. In future years, if this amendment passes and if we happened to have a massive snow storm on election day, there's a good chance that I won't cast my vote that year.
Allow me to toot my horn for a little bit here to illustrate my point:
- I have a college education.
- I have voted in every election since I became eligible. (Except for this year's primaries, which caught me by surprise - why so early with the primaries this year Minnesota?)
- I have watched the Republican nomination process from the get-go, listened to both the Democratic and Republican conventions, and have listened to every presidential debate this year.
- I am not a felon.
- I wouldn't know how to commit voter fraud even if I wanted to commit some.
The biggest issue I have with this potential constitution amendment is that we have absolutely no idea what ramifications would come with passing of this amendment. We don't know if it would mean the end of mail ballots. We don't know if the county would have to spend funds they don't really have to construct more polling stations - which would have to have handicapped bathrooms and various other amenities to make them legal polling stations. We're not even sure what constitutes a valid photo id. All we know is that we'd have to show id before we vote, but we don't even know how we'd have to show voter id.
As Mary Jane Morrison, a Hamline Law Professor, said about this amendment, "This deserves an F."
Proponents of this bill say it will cut down on voter fraud. But I've yet to hear any terribly compelling numbers and arguments about voter fraud in Minnesota.
If you ask me, this has more to do with Republicans consistently losing elections by itty bitty margins (i.e. Coleman vs. Franken, Emmer vs. Dayton) then it does about cracking down on voter fraud. Heck, if the Republicans just get rid of a few hundred voters by passing this amendment, maybe the votes in these tight races will start tipping in their favor.
But this shouldn't be a partisan issue. This is an issue that will effect every voter in Minnesota. And if you have two thumbs and like voting, please consider this amendment carefully before voting. This is a very vague amendment that could have negative repercussions for all of us.