Would the outcome outweigh the costs of voter ID?

To the Editor:

In a topsy-turvy chain of events, Minnesotans will decide this November whether to adopt changes to our election system months before the legislature even defines what they would mean.

Amid all the significant unknowns, a new independent analysis offers sharp relief on one critical point: Passage would bust budgets across the state. And no one, not even individual taxpayers, would escape unscathed.

The nonprofit nonpartisan Citizens for Election Integrity-MN teamed with a nationally recognized expert on election law in the most comprehensive cost analysis to date. Their figures derive from three sources: a budget survey conducted by the Minnesota Association of County Officers, data from the vetoed 2011 photo ID bill and implementation costs of similar measures in other states.

The breakdown follows:

• The state would incur costs between $9.95 million and $13.55 million to educate voters and provide free IDs;

• Local governments would spend $26.5 million to $63.6 million to implement provisional balloting, provide computers for polling places and, where necessary, convert precincts from mail-in to in-person voting;

• Individuals currently without ID would face $16 million to $72 million in fees to secure documents, such as birth certificates, necessary to obtain the voter ID.

Dan McGrath of ProtectMyVote.com, an interest group backing the amendment, dismissed the report, arguing it’s “not based on any concrete facts.” His comments are dubious at best, given he previously estimated that implementation would cost up to $40 million.

But instead of undermining its conclusions, McGrath’s statement underscores the major problem at work: Even the amendment’s chief authors admit that Minnesotans are being put in the impossible position of voting on an issue around which concrete facts don’t exist. In other words, we have no idea at this point what we’re being asked to pay for.

During hearings earlier this year, Sen. Scott Newman of Hutchinson stated that it would be up to the legislature to clarify the amendment’s language and decide how it will be implemented. That won’t happen until 2013, should the amendment pass in November.

And that’s really the point. If these changes are important — and worthy of such cost — it’s best to do it right, not pressure voters into doing it right now.

 

Cynthia Moothart
Policy Director
League of Rural Voters

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