Live-blogging: Should you be required to prove your ID when voting?

A Minnesota House committee today is taking up the Capitol equivalent of the president throwing out the first pitch on opening day of the baseball season: The bill to require people to show a photo ID when voting.

Last fall the conservative group, Minnesota Majority, pressed for the law, saying same-day registration leads to errors, such as voters casting ballots in the wrong precinct.

The Franken-Coleman race, however, overshadowed the anecdotal evidence on Election Day that same-day voter registration saved the right to vote for a number of people.

Remember the Election Day story of Csilla Szabo of Rochester? I wrote about it on Election Day.

…she’s still upset at her experience when she tried to vote at the People of Hope Church in Rochester around Midmorning. “I’ve been registered for two years, I went through the line and my name was not on the voter roll,” she said. “I had to re-register and it’s a good thing I had proper ID with me. I asked the election judge where I could file a complaint and she said she didn’t think there was any way for individuals to file a complaint.”

We heard quite a few stories like this on Election Day. One Washington County official told me they had planned for the possibility of errors by keeping the Licensing Bureau offices open late so people could get IDs, and then register to vote and then… vote.

What’s changed from the debate in previous years, however, is the ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court late last April that Indiana’s voter ID law doesn’t violate the Constitution.

During the Democratic National Convention, the Indiana clerk answered the assertion of the League of Women Voters that Voter ID diminishes the turnout by noting that Indiana already had a tradition of low turnouts. Turnout in November in the state was about 60 percent. In 2002, it was reported as 38 percent.

Several states are now debating the voter ID law. In Oklahoma, it may be the bargaining chip for efforts to allow early voting. Is it, perhaps, a scenario for Minnesota? On Tuesday, Secretary of State Mark Ritchie proposed early voting for Minnesota.

The House hearing is underway, I’m live blogging.

8:31 a.m. – Rep. Tom Emmer is speaking on behalf is bill. “It’s about confidence in the outcome of the election,” he says. He says the only argument against the bill is that it will disenfranchise part of the population — elderly, minorities, and special needs. “That argument has been entirely disproved.” He cites the Supreme Court decision I mentioned (and linked to) above. “So now the only argument you’re going to hear is about cost.”

8:35 a.m. – Emmer says IDs will be provided at no cost to the person who needs it. It would cost the state $1.19 each. He says an estimated 143,000 people would need to get IDs (presuming they don’t have it now). He says the average voter turnout since same-day registration is less than the six presidential elections prior.

>> Note: Here’s the statistics from the Secretary of State on that. Emmer cited presidential turnout. Here’s the non-presidential turnout. Blue is the primary, red is the general election.

8:40 a.m. – Rep. Mary Kiffmeyer, the former secretary of state, is now speaking. She says other states have seen an increase in turnout after the Voter ID law.

8:45 a.m. – By way of background, this effort failed last year in the Legislature when supporters tried to amend another bill.

8:46 a.m. – Rep. Ryan Winkler notes that Minnesota Majority says that elections in Minnesota have no integrity. “Did elections when you were secretary of state have integrity?” he asks Kiffmeyer. “We can do better,” she said, not really answering the question. Winkler persists. “You used a categorical statement that it has no integrity, and I can’t be responsible for others’ comments,” Kiffmeyer said.

Aside: Kiffmeyer was a member of Minnesota Majority.

8:50 a.m. – Kiffmeyer says MM wasn’t saying the entire election has no integrity.

8:51 a.m. – Rep. Paul Marquart rejects notion that it was Voter ID that caused an increase in turnout in Indiana, noting most states had an increase in turnout. He and Emmer debate whether turnout has gone down since same-day registration was adopted in Minnesota.

Marquart says Emmer is comparing off-year elections and the average voter turnout in an off-year election is about 38 percent.

8:55 a.m. “We’ve got a solution looking for a problem,” Marquart says. Emmer suggests Marquart is questioning his integrity. They’re debating statistics.

Let’s dig deeper into this question because the reps don’t have the data. Here’s a study by the University of Minnesota. Here’s what it said:

Same-day registration has contributed to Minnesota’s strong voter participation, accounting for 15 percent to nearly 21 percent of the state’s turnout. (Minnesota is one of just six states — including Wisconsin — that permits same-day registration. Most of these states lead the country in voter turnout.)

8:59 a.m. – Rep. Mark Buesgens of Jordan cites statistics showing turnout is up higher in Voter ID states than non-voter ID states.

9:01 a.m. – David Schultz, Hamline professor and former president of Common Cause. He wrote this: “Lies, Damn Lies, and Voter IDs:The Fraud of Voter Fraud.” He says the level of voter fraud is “statistically insignificant.” In a MinnPost article, he called it a “myth.

9:08 a.m. “Have you done any research on voter fraud?” Rep. Steve Gottwalt of St. Cloud asks. “I know where you’re going to head,” Schultz says. “That voter fraud is hard to detect.” Schultz says the allegations of voter fraud do not stand up to the evidence.

9:10 a.m. – Gottwalt says Schultz’ tone is “one of vitriol and anger.” “The problem is these studies don’t investigate the allegations,” he said. “Twenty-five precincts in this state recorded more votes than voters in the precincts.” He says Schultz’s studies only focus on official claims of voter fraud. Schultz says they do.

9:12 a.m. – Rep. Terry Morrow, DFL-St. Peter, gives Schultz three softballs to take the pressure off the professor. Schultz explains his methodology, dismisses higher turnout in Indiana and says it can’t be pinned to voter ID (Bob notes: this is a pretty irrelevant point since the claim isn’t that voter ID makes people more likely to vote, it’s that voter ID doesn’t make it so hard that people won’t vote.),

Recommended reading: Slate Magazine 2007 article, “The first big survey of voter ID requirements — and its surprising findings.”

Fraud is one of those things for which social scientists simply do not have the tools for systematic measurement. We know fraud happens sometimes–particularly in the context of absentee ballots, if the number of prosecutions is any indicator. But we have not figured out a way to investigate it on a national scale.

9:22 a.m. – Josh Reed was a poll challenger for one of the Minneapolis precincts with the missing ballots. “It seemed very difficult for the students to vote. When you come from another state, you don’t have a local driver’s license. In most of the cases, the utility bills were paid by someone else, so they didn’t have anything.” He says the judges were having a hard time deciding who could vote and many students were turned away.

He says people tried to vouch for people even though they didn’t know who they were. One girl, who had been vouched for, came back and vouched for three other people. He says a voter ID law errs on the side of accuracy.

9:32 a.m. – Sec. of State Mark Ritchie says he’s been conducting listening sessions around the state and everybody is commenting how smoothly the election went. He says he’s been asking people about the legislation and gets five reactions:

  1. Nobody has any information and cannot find evidence of voter impersonation.

  2. Everybody agrees that the main population affected is the people who don’t have the IDs. “In Indiana, that was 98-year-old nuns.”
  3. People are concerned this will slow down the lines and require election officials to add more judges. “They want to know where the election judges and the money will come from?” he said.
  4. It creates a giant bureaucracy for provisional ballots. Provisional voting in this country, which is not allowed in Minnesota, “is a nightmare that allows only one-third of those votes to be counted.” Nobody wants it in this state unless the National Guard comes in from Mississippi and makes us do it, he says.
  5. It’s expensive. The unfunded mandate is the cost of doing it at the county level. “It’s $870,000 per year and you can fix a few bridges in Kittson County for that,” he said.

9:38 a.m. – “What is the primary goal of your office?” Rep. Gottwalt asks. Ritchie gives him four, one of which is running free and fair elections.

“Would voter ID increase or decrease the integrity of elections?” asks Gottwalt.

“Since there’s no documentation of voter fraud, it would have zero effect,” he says, adding that opinions about voter ID hurt the integrity of the elections.

Kiffmeyer presses Ritchie on the problem students at the U of M had and Ritchie blames Gov. Pawlenty for opposing a bill that would allow students to use their student IDs as valid election day identification. Kiffmeyer says that would be a valid ID (government-issued student ID) under the bill.

Recommended reading: The Smart Politics blog at the U of M Humphrey Institute says there’s strong voter support for this bill.

9:46 a.m. – A man who served as an election judge says people were vouching for people and didn’t even know the names of the person for whom they were vouching. He also says people presented IDs, even though they didn’t have to, “and it didn’t take any time at all.” He says an “old-folks home” and a chemical dependency center is in his precinct. “They don’t have utility bills.” He says employees of the organizations wouldn’t vouch for the residents. “And none of those people voted,” he said. “If they’d had a photo ID, they would’ve voted.”

9:55 a.m. -Keesha Gaskins of the Minnesota League of Women Voters testifies and calls it a costly bill. She says “if you don’t have a piece of paper that had a current address along with a birth date — none of which is provided under same-day voter registration — ” none of them could get a voter ID card and couldn’t vote.

“We are offended by the comparison of voting to commercial activities,” she said. She didn’t explain what she means by that. Is it that I have to show an ID to cash a check but not vote?

9:58 a.m. – Lucky Rosenbloom speaks, he says, on behalf of the African American community. He is chair of the Black Republican Caucus. He tells the historical story of people in the south who were beaten for voting. “When I stand in line waiting to vote and I have people in front of me being turned away because they don’t have a utility bill, I tell them they have to come back and vote.” But he says they’ve thrown away the bill after paying it.

He says a photo ID will allow empower “people in my community” to vote.

10:04 a.m. – Scott McMahon of the Minnesota Private College Council, says private college IDs wouldn’t be accepted. He says if there were two students from the same family — one attending Winona State and one attending St. Mary’s — only one would be allowed to vote.

Trivia time: In the three times this issue has come up in the House, no Republican has voted against it. Several DFLers have voted for it.

10:10 a.m. – Rep. Emmer is making his final comments. He says it shouldn’t be a partisan issue. We’re near a vote. Prediction: It goes down on an 11-to-8 vote.

10:12 a.m. – The bill is dead on an 11-to-8 vote.

One DFLer voted for the bill. Rep. Philip Sterner of Rosemount.

  • Jill B

    The only reason someone could have for not providing adequate ID at a voting location is voter fraud. To provide my Drivers License takes me 30 seconds. If the elderly do not have a license then they have months and years ahead of an election to go to any Licensing location and get a photo ID. Now they are making the process even easier. This is to make the entire process more secure. This isn’t rocket science.

  • Jeff

    Absolutely spot on with voter ID’s. What is wrong with accountability? No one wants to lose anyone’s voting rights – that’s a blessing to all of us. But We need to hold people accountable. One of the biggest problems we have in our culture today is lack of accountability – you’re seeing it in the mortgage problem – credit limits too high – personal backruptcies. Sad – this nation of individuals who want to stand tall and work to ensure their success in life has turned to a nation of individuals who are exceedingly looking for someone to help them.

  • j

    I just wonder what this means for people without faces.

  • MR

    How does this work for absentee ballots? They’re already in the news now…what happens with an ID requirement?

  • Eric

    If you can say now that “every upstanding citizen has the right to vote”, you’ll be turning it into “every upstanding citizen who pays for an ID has the right to vote…”

  • Kevin Watterson

    Not true. IDs would be given free of charge under the bill.

  • It’s clear this is the Republican way of suppressing Democratic party votes. See my blog for thoughts I had last year.

    Did Schultz really sound “vitriol and angry”

  • JSmith

    Laws where there is no documented need for said law are just silly.

  • MR

    Is there going to be some mechanism for election judges to determine if an ID is valid?

  • Richard

    It is not true that the only reason a person would have for not showing an ID is voter fraud. I worked on the get out the vote effort all day on election day, knocking on doors to remind people to vote. I remember several instances where people had recently turned 18 and did not have drivers licenses or state IDs. They had to register by having someone else vouch for them. In other cases people had recently moved and had licenses with their old addresses and had to use other forms of documentation to prove their residence. None of these people were trying to commit voter fraud.

  • Bob

    I agree with JSmith that this is a solution looking for a problem.

    Instances of voter fraud have been very few and far between. There’s plenty of other more serious problems for us to hyperventilate about.

  • Jennifer B

    Throughout this past election, it seems the biggest disputes regarding voter eligibility have been concerning absentee ballots. If that’s the case, how will requiring photo ID at the polls help?

    If absentee ballots are the primary source of problems and confusion, and this bill only addresses those who cast their ballot in person, in light of our large deficit, is spending money on this justifiable??

  • Jim!!!

    People who vouch don’t need to know the person’s name – when was that a requirement? I can know someone lives next door without knowing their name – what a bunch of **.

    If the effort succeeds – which it should not – it will simply result in GOTV becoming GOTID. What a waste of people’s time.

  • mindtron

    If the bill will provide IDs free of charge, then I don’t see any problem with requiring IDs as long as anyone with an ID is automatically registered to vote.

    Aren’t you required to update your address on your DL withing 90 days of movign as well? so that shouldn’t be an issue.

    and you can get a state id or DL at 16 so getting one by 18 shouldn’t suppress any youth vote at all.

    As for students, I am a U of M student and I think that if my fellow students from out of state want to vote in MN then they can get an ID otherwise they can vote in their home states. Again not supressing any vote at all.

    I just don’t understand what is the big deal with providing a picture ID to vote when we don’t seem to mind providing one when we write a check or use a credit card.

  • Anita

    VoterID – great idea. Free IDs mean no one is disenfranchised except the non-citizens (who have no right to vote) who are an important part of the DFL voter bloc. No fraud you say – how do you know? There is no way to check if it occurs and no way to report it. I asked my election judge: how would you know if I came in here and voted under my neighbor’s name (who doesn’t vote anyway) or if I came in here and got a “friend” to vouch for me and voted under multiple names? She said: there’s no way to prove any of it.

  • Jim!!!

    Anita – “non-citizens (who have no right to vote) who are an important part of the DFL voter bloc”

    WTF? Some evidence?

  • Jenel

    Minnesota is the only state I’ve lived in where I was not asked for ID when I voted. (Other places I’ve voted are Washington, DC and Kansas). I’m curious about the absentee ballot question, too.

  • Erin

    >The only reason someone could have for not providing adequate ID at a voting location is voter fraud.

    Baloney. This is an (expensive) solution in search of a problem. I was a precinct election judge this November. Voters already have to provide proof of residence and identity to register to vote. Voters who do not have to produce identity at the polls have already produced it to register earlier than election day.

    It is a tremendous hassle for some Minnesota voters to coordinate the transportation and assistive services necessary to obtain a Minnesota drivers license or ID card, especially if they don’t realize it is needed until election day. Voters already prove their identity and residence to vote. The rate of actual voter fraud is miniscule in Minnesota. Why should voters have to go through this extra hoop, and why should scarce state taxpayer dollars pay for it?

  • I know of Fraud

    My cousin went off to college in a foreign land (California) and registered and voted their. He moved back last year and was surprised he was already registered to vote, thinking since he had left state for 6 years and gotten a new driver’s license, in that foreign land, that he was off the roles in Minnesota. We then looked up his past voting records and guess what he found, to his surprise, he had voted in the 2007 elections.

    I have heard others talk about never voting and have looked up their records and found, oh yes you have. So fraud does go on.

    As far as I can tell there are 3 ways to prove fraud.

    1. Not vote and see (hope that someone commits fraud using your name) that you are marked to vote.

    2. Commit fraud yourself and vote under someone else’s name.

    3. When the election is over and they voter registration signature cards of all those who voted in that precinct against the sign in books. They do it for the absentee – if I am not mistaken – that was/is part of the issue with some ballets being rejected (again if I am not mistaken). It is an option, but who would pay to do that.

  • I know of Fraud

    oops – read then hit send, sorry updated wording to make number 3 readable.

    3. When the election is over they could check the voter registration signature cards of all those who voted in that precinct against the sign in books. They do it for the absentee – if I am not mistaken – that was/is part of the issue with some ballets being rejected (again if I am not mistaken). It is an option, but who would pay to do that.

  • Elizabeth T

    I am amazed when the pro-ID group fails to realize you can have a valid Minnesota driver’s license without being a U.S. Citizen.

    My husband isn’t a citizen – yet he could go to our polling place, hand over his license, do same-day registration, and vote. Who’s going to ever know he isn’t a Citizen?

    If you want Voter ID to have any bearing on the “Integrity” (what a friggin’ weasel-word) … then that ID had better be someone’s U.S. Passport. That’s the only thing that will concretely connect Jane Doe with her right to vote. And that, friends, ain’t free.

    That said, I am not inherently opposed to requiring ID to vote – but I think we should be careful about *why* we want it. Asking for ID will not provide any Integrity to the process.

    What is this oversight obsession? I can’t see any fraud! Look harder!! ?

  • George

    There is no evidence of voter fraud. The biggest problems are accurately counting votes and reporting results. Showing an ID at the polls is a waste of time and money on a non-existent problem. Let’s focus on the absurd absentee ballot process instead. There is a lot that needs fixing in that area. Proving that you are an eligible voter…not so much.

  • Joanna

    How do all those underage students get into bars? how did that person who stole my wallet manage to write bad checks at Target before I stopped the checks? Oh, yeah, fake IDs and people who don’t really check the ID! Whose going to make sure the IDs are valid or that they really belong to the person?

  • Some people have a tough time understanding the issue – here is a hint pretend you don’t own a car, you are disabled and elderly – you have voted all your life – there is no rationale for fraud – there is a big penalty with almost no benefit to commit fraud. I have a 2 minute video that may help –

  • !Fraud

    Voter fraud and by extension election fraud in modern elections around the world has not been shown to be possible without some sort of organization, obviously. This type of top to bottom organized assistance can only come from the government or party in power. Individuals outside the government or who are only a minority inside the goverment can commit voter fraud all they want, but are unlikely to affect an election’s outcome.

    For example, election fraud has occurred in a blatant fashion in the most recent elections in Russia, the well publicized Ukrainian election a couple years back, several of the past Venezuelan referendums, the later elections in Mexico while the PRI party was in control, and several other elections that occured in small former soviet republics were also tainted.

    In these cases of election fraud, there were a combination of issues that were perpetrated by corrupt members of the ruling party. For instance, the mysterious disappearance of uncounted ballots from opposition districts, or the issuance of additional identification documents for imaginary people which allows an individual to vote several times at different precincts, intimidation of voters with violence or legal action, mysterious, inexplicable and secret voter purges or intentional vote count misreporting by election judges. Except for widespread violent attacks on voters or the precincts themselves, the other methods of election fraud are statistically unable to make a difference in an election if attempted by the minority. However, the ruling party can use many of these tactics to win an election. Many of these tactics would be nearly impossible in the US, due its size, number of voters, and disparate voting laws from state to state.

    If anyone desires 100% accountability for the voters that vote in an election it may be possible, but at the cost of many other eligible voters not voting. There may be some voter fraud in any election, but until you can prove that the additional ineligible votes were above an acceptable error margin like in the neighborhood of say 0.1% then it really doesn’t matter much does it? This does not mean that if the margin of victory for a winner of an election was closer than 0.1% that there is an issue. There is almost no way to make any measurement exact. Even if eliminating the 0.1% of fraud in an election was possible, you risk throwing out a greater number of valid votes.

    Keeping this in mind, I have read about claims of voter fraud complete with vague anecdotal evidence. Generally, we should make laws based on verified, quantitative evidence and not unverified, anecdotal evidence.

  • I know of Fraud

    @!Fraud –

    I have quantitative evidence that someone was marked as voting, in the state of minnesotas SOS voting history list, using my cousin’s name.

    What is not verified, quantitative about that.