Photo IDs Are Roadblocks to Voting
Minnesotans don’t want to have to present a photo voter ID in order to exercise their right to vote. This was the message delivered yesterday at a state Senate hearing about a proposed constitutional amendment to put photo voter ID on the 2012 ballot. Senators heard it loud and clear and delayed action on the proposal. Characterized as a standing-room-only hearing, Senators heard five hours of testimony from a long line of citizens mostly against voter ID before deciding to delay action. Last year, a voter ID bill passed the Minnesota Congress but was vetoed by the governor. The proposal for a constitutional amendment was an attempt to run around the legislative process.
This action and a recent voting rights victory in Nebraska, when proposed legislative bill 239 was pulled from the legislative agenda, show growing public opposition to making voting more difficult.
Voter ID requirements create real hurdles for real Americans, blocking the path for voting. Minnesota Public Radio captured one story:
Ilo Madden, a retired minister from St. Louis Park, said she doesn’t want her right to vote jeopardized. Madden told lawmakers that obtaining an ID is already difficult for many senior citizens.
“Today, I live on my own in an apartment. But tomorrow I could be living in a nursing home. We never know,” Madden said. “If I was in a nursing home, I’d have to go through the whole process of getting an ID once again. I didn’t think I could do it physically.”
In addition, the Minnesota Secretary of State issued a report that over 215,000 Minnesotans lack current photo IDs and, as such, would be blocked from voting. Another 500,000 Minnesotans who register at the polls on Election Day could no longer do so. That’s nearly 9.5% of the state population.
Proponents of photo voter ID say it’s needed to prevent “voter fraud,” but voter ID laws only prevent voter impersonation, a crime no one has ever been convicted of in Minnesota. So what is this really about? Voter ID is designed to make it harder for certain citizens to vote: low-income, persons of color, youth, and senior citizens. These are the very groups who most need to have a voice and a vote.
Here is a breakdown of the 215,000 Minnesotans who don’t have current photo ID:
- 18 percent of elderly citizens do not have government-issued photo ID.
- 15 percent of people earning less than $35,000 a year do not have photo ID.
- 18 percent of citizens aged 18–24 do not have a government issued photo ID with their current name and address.
- 10 percent of voters with disabilities do not have a photo ID.
- 25 percent of voting-age African-American citizens do not have a current, government issued photo ID.