Guest Column, Don Britt: There is no problem at the polls

For more than 24 years while living in Minnesota,  I served as a trained election judge. In all of that time, I have never witnessed anyone pretending they were someone they were not so they could vote in that person’s name, nor defraud the people of this state by lying about their place of residence.

We election judges work hard to assure that our elections are fair and open – that there is no cheating or fraud going on. We are trained each new election and reminded of the current laws that have been enacted to make sure Minnesota has clean elections.

In the Twin Cities, a political group has put up a billboard that declares Minnesota to be #1 in the U.S. in election fraud! In fact, it is just the opposite. Minnesota has the cleanest elections in the country. We also consistently have one of the highest percentages of eligible voters actually voting.

The authors of the Voter ID amendment say it is reasonable, simple and free. According to them, everyone gets a free government approved photo ID and shows that when they register to vote and when they vote. Simple, right? But it’s not. It’s far more complicated and more expensive than the authors would have us believe.

One estimate is that Voter ID will cost the people  of Minnesota up to $50,000,000 to put into action. There would have to be a 2nd tier ballot that would be verified later, and there would have to be another ballot box, more election judges, and more expense to pay them. If Voter IDs are to be free, someone will have to pay for them to have them made and sent to voters, and that likely will be you and me, the citizens of Minnesota. No new taxes indeed! Just more fees, right?

But that is not the worst of it. Many people would be denied their right to vote. Elderly persons might not be able to prove who they are, because such documents are not always available. In the Sunday Star Tribune, there is a story about a 79-year-old woman who lives in a nursing home in North Minneapolis. She was born on a farm in Mississippi in 1932. All she has to prove her birth in the U.S., and on what date, is a list of birth dates for her and her 5 sisters on what looks like a page torn out of a family Bible. She has no idea where a birth certificate might be, if there even is one.

She cannot get a photo ID. Nursing home staff tried to find an official certificate so she could join her fellow nursing home residents on a trip outside the country requiring a passport. Because none could be found, she had to stay at the home, while her friends went on the trip.

Then there are people who are homeless, and others who move frequently for one reason or another. Both likely live below the poverty line and might not be able to establish their residency, although they may have lived in the state all their lives! In order to get a government issued ID they would have to find transportation to get to where pictures are taken and to make the application. Unless the legislature enacts a law that directs public officials to go to everyone’s home and sign them up, and that is unlikely, more eligible citizens would lose their right to vote.

Minnesota’s Secretary of State estimates that 84,000 people may lose their right to vote because of the complications of getting an approved ID. He estimates that another 131,000 people would lose that right because they moved within the state and their addresses on their photo IDs are inaccurate.

An acquaintance of mine says his two sons were born overseas on U.S. naval bases. They might have a doctor’s signature on the hospital certificate with their footprints on it, but that does not qualify. They would have to apply to the U.S. State Department and pay a $50 fee each to obtain an official govern-ment document that proves they are American citizens.

The Voter ID amendment is a solution looking for a problem which we do not have in Minnesota. It will be very costly; it will be more complicated than the authors admit; and thousands of eligible voters will be denied their right to vote as citizens of this state. In addition, it is likely that same day registration would no longer be allowed. Are we willing to pay such a high cost when there is no problem to fix?

Rev. Donald E. Britt is a longtime election judge the pastor at First Congregational, U.C.C. in Princeton.

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