Editorial: Voter ID plan would be costly

Published 9:59 am Friday, February 4, 2011

Some legislators sponsoring a voter identification bill appear to be promoting a solution that is looking for a problem, as well as attempting to create another expensive state mandate.

Republican legislators have introduced a bill that would require Minnesotans to show a driver’s photo ID, state-issued photo ID or a tribal-issued ID that would be instantly scanned to determine if the voter was eligible to vote and was attempting to vote in the correct precinct.

Among the bill sponsors are Rep. Bruce Vogel, R-Willmar, Rep. Mary Kiffmeyer, R-Big Lake, and Sen. Warren Limmer, R-Maple Lake.

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This proposal is simply an attempt to manipulate the voting process for political purposes to address an issue tjat is not a major problem in Minnesota.

In addition, this proposal would simply make it harder for Minnesotans to vote, especially elderly, disabled, young and minority voters.

Minnesota should be encouraging voters to participate in the voting process, not making it harder and more difficult to vote.

In making the case for this voter ID, Limmer spoke of his suspicions of the Minnesota voting process, citing the example of an election judge driving around with election ballots in the car trunk. This story is an election myth that has been disproven. In addition, there is no way this voter ID bill would address that type of violation.

Vogel could not cite any voter problem in west central Minnesota in justifying his support for the bill. Yet he claims that the significant cost of this proposed voter ID bill is justified.

The bill sponsors on Wednesday would not estimate the cost of this bill. Some media reports indicate the cost would be between $20 million and $40 million. Even at the lower estimate, the cost would be significant to local government.

After the 2008 election, there were 38 individuals identified and convicted of voter fraud. Using the low estimate of $20 million, this voter identification plan would cost local government in Minnesota $530,000 per conviction.

A $530,000 per case solution to solve a minimal problem in Minnesota? That is not a very good cost justification for another state mandate.

Many members of the Legislature’s Republican majority campaigned on a promise to reduce state mandates and lower the cost of government in Minnesota. However, one of their first steps is to propose a new state mandate where the cost is more than $500,000 per case of voter fraud.

This bill proposal simply does not compute.

The worst part of this proposal is it would make the voting process harder and discourage many voters from voting. Minnesota has traditionally had high voter participation and this proposal would only decrease voter participation.

This Republican proposal is a high-cost solution looking to address a minimal problem solely for the political purpose of preventing Minnesotans from voting.

This bill is simply a costly bad idea.

— West Central Tribune, Jan. 29