The voter ID question

The Minnesota Senate has passed a bill requiring all Minnesotans to present a photo ID in order to vote.

And a bill was officially introduced in the Minnesota House this week that would add a constitutional question to the ballot asking if people should be required to show a photo ID when voting. The question reads:


Shall the Minnesota Constitution be amended to require that all voters present an approved form of photographic identification prior to voting; all voters be subject to identical eligibility verification standards regardless of the time of their registration; and the state provide at no charge an approved photographic identification to eligible voters?

It’s been one of the more emotional issues over the years pitting Democrats against Republicans.

Republicans claim the bill will reduce the chance of voter fraud, even though there doesn’t appear to be significant incidents of voter fraud in Minnesota. Democrats claim the bill is intended to dampen turnout among the party’s usual constituencies, and there’s at least some evidence to show that’s not a significant problem, either.

The national movement for voter ID gained its momentum from Indiana once the U.S. Supreme Court ruled its 2005 law constitutional — three years ago today, coincidentally.

A 2007 study from Jeffrey Milyo at the University of Missouri found no significant change in voter turnout after it was enacted:


The findings that emerge from my analysis are that photo ID is associated with: i) an overall county-level turnout increase of almost two percentage points, ii) an insignificant increase in relative turnout for counties with a greater percentage of minority and poor population, iii) no consistent or significant impact on relative turnout in counties with a greater percentage of less educated or elderly voters, and iv) a significant relative increase in turnout for counties with a higher percentage of Democrat voters.

The study ran counter to a Rutgers University study of the 2004 election, suggesting voter ID laws suppressed turnout among minority and low-income voters.

In the absence of firm evidence of traditional arguments, much of the debate about voter ID has shifted instead to the cost of implementing the law and providing photo ID to voters who don’t have one already.

  • davidz

    The election system in Minnesota is widely regarded (except perhaps by former MN Secretaries of State) to be amongst the best in the nation. We have high voter turnout rates, we get results back quickly, and we even have faith in the recount efforts.

    In the absence of clear problems that would be solved by voter ID requirements, why do so?

    So maybe it doesn’t cause lower turnout amongst certain populations. Maybe it does.

    Is requiring the ID going to increase turnout? Is it going to improve the system in any measurable way?

    Again, unless it is going to make a validatable difference, this is (as they say), a solution in search of a problem.

  • Ben

    The U of Missouri study is often cited as a way to deflect concern about Voter IDs suppressing turnout. What is unclear to me is if Indiana, like MN, allowed same-day registration and residency vouching prior to the implementation of the voter ID law. If IN residents had to pre-register to vote, even before Voter ID, I’d suggest that Voter ID wouldn’t be a big change. As someone who has utilized same day registration a couple times, I’d hate to see that go away.

  • Jennifer

    So, if this ends up on the ballot will it carry a disclaimer (much like tax increases such as the Legacy amendment did) that reads “Note: A affirmative vote is a vote for increased state spending”?

  • Jamie

    I can tell that Jeffrey Milyo at the University of Missouri is most likely a Republican, and therefore his results have to be questioned. The way I can tell he’s probably a Republican: he uses “Democrat” as an adjective.

    Besides, language like “no consistent or significant impact” is very inexact. And many elections are won and lost by what could be called, an another situation, “insignificant” percentages.

  • Jamie

    I don’t remember the exact number, but there were something like 7 proven individual cases of fraud in the last election. They were mostly felons voting when they were ineligible, if I remember correctly.

    This is indeed: 1.) a solution in search of a problem, and 2.) another of the many ways Republicans are finding to reduce election turnout of individuals who support Democrats and reduce financial and other support of DEmocrats by organizations that traditionally support Democrats. They often can’t win on the issues, so they restrict voting and demonize and disenfranchise otherwise respectable, beneficial, law-abiding organizations.

  • Jim Shapiro

    Here’s an idea for the 2012 presidential elections

    Potential voters must answer 2 simple, factually based question to earn the right to vote:

    1) In what country was President Barack Obama born?

    2) If you answered anything but THE UNITED STATES, why are you such a tool who insists on voting against your own best interests?