Tuesday, April 5, 2011

County Board Considers Resolution Against Voter ID Requirements

At their Board meeting on April 5th in Duluth the SLC Board heard from community members regarding a proposed state law that would impose restrictions on voters in the form of additional identification requirements. Those in favor of additional restrictions indicated that they believed it was a “personal responsibility” for voters to secure identification prior to voting. Additionally, they indicated that this should not be a county concern. They cited ID requirements for everything from picking up hockey tickets to cashing checks. One election judge questioned why UMD students suddenly realize on Election Day that they wanted to vote, having not secured appropriate identification in advance. This particular election judge was against the present law that allows for same day registration.

Joyce Benson, officer of the League of Women Voters, spoke in favor of the resolution, indicating that voter ID requirements would discriminate against students, the elderly, low-income people. She cited statistics indicating the voter fraud in Minnesota was virtually none. Additionally, she indicated concern regarding the cost of implementing such a system. As an election judge herself, she said she believes we have a good system now.

Joan Peterson spoke in favor of the resolution indicating, “Democracy is supposed to facilitate participation” and requiring voter ID would not facilitate this. Another speaker cited information from the Secretary State’s Office that the incidence of voter fraud in Minnesota is .0005%.

A number of speakers indicated that there is “absolutely no reason” for anyone to not have a valid ID on Election Day. There seemed to be about an equal number of people who spoke in favor and against the resolution.

Don Dicklich, SLC Auditor spoke indicating it was not his place to speak for or against the resolution. He did say there was no evidence of widespread voter fraud in St. Louis County. He explained that it is clearly possible for many people to live at the same address such as in the case of an apartment building. A prior speaker had said that he had reviewed the voter rolls and that this situation constituted voter fraud.

Following the speakers there was a robust discussion with Commissioners Forsman, Dahlberg and Nelson speaking against the resolution (in favor of voter ID). Commissioner Forsman said “they drag people out from under some bridge” and have them vote and then take them to another polling place to vote again”. He said that people who do not believe in voter ID have “evil intent are uneducated or na├»ve”. Commissioner Jewell recounted all the ways that we have historically kept people from voting in this country. He went on to say that contrary to what one of the prior speakers stated, he does not believe that students are committing fraud in large numbers. He supported the resolution.

Commissioner Dahlberg said we are “turning common sense upside down” and that 80% of people in Minnesota were in favor of photo ID. He spoke in favor of voter ID. He says it is “very difficult to find voters out there who do not have ID’s”. He seemed unaware of the issue of voters moving, thus their “photo ID” has an incorrect address for the purposes of voting in a particular precinct on election day.

Commissioner Raukar initially spoke in support of the resolution saying, “here we have a solution looking for a problem”. He sees this bill being an unfunded mandate that counties would be forced to implement. Later, however, he withdrew his support, offering an amendment that he said was drafted in consultation with County Attorney, Mark Rubin. This amendment said, “…be it resolved that the SLC Board of Commissioners is opposed to local property taxpayers bearing the costs of photo ID requirements for voters in elections conducted in the State of Minnesota.” This amendment passed on a 6-1 voice vote with Commissioner Forsman voting “no”.

Commissioners then broke for lunch with the plan to return and discuss more later in the afternoon. The amended resolution eventually passed 5-2.