PoliGraph: Simon misses on voting claim

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The Legislature is weighing a controversial bill that would require voters to present a state-issued photo identification to vote.

Opponents say the proposal would block the state’s elderly from casting ballots, as they are less likely to drive.

Among the opponents is Rep. Steve Simon, DFL – St. Louis Park, who frequently says that, “25 percent of seniors don’t even have a photo ID.”

That’s the case in Wisconsin– but not in Minnesota.

The Evidence

There’s a lot of evidence that older people and minorities are less likely than the general population to have photo identification.

But to support their claim, opponents of the bill point to a 2005 Wisconsin study driver license data that found that only 25 percent of those over 65 have a driver’s license or a photo ID.

That data is old and based on information from another state.

According to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, about 10.5 percent of Minnesotans 65 and older do not have some form of photo identification. The figure is based on 2009 demographic data and is adjusted for annual mortality rates among the elderly.

The Verdict

Far more of Minnesota’s oldest residents have photo identification than Simon contends. His claim is false.


Minnesota House of Representatives, Reps. Simon and Winkler Respond to Photo ID Demonstration, Jan. 26, 2011

The Driver License Status of the Voting Age Population in Wisconsin, by John Pawasarat, Employment and Training Institute, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, June 2005

Brennan Center for Justice, Citizens Without Proof: A Survey of Americans’ Possession of Documentary Proof of Citizenships and Photo Identification, Nov. 2006

U.S. Census Bureau, American FactFinder, accessed May 10, 2011

Interview, Carrie Lucking, spokeswoman, House leadership, May 5, 2011

Interview, Patricia McCormack, Director of Driver Vehicle Services Division, Minnesota Department of Public Safety, May 13, 2011

Interview, Keesha Gaskins, Senior Counsel, Brennan Center for Justice, May 10, 2011

  • I think it’s inaccurate to say that his claim is false. Rep Simon made the point that Minnesota seniors are disproportionately impacted by voter ID requirements. The data provided by the Department of Public Safety (DPS) shows this. They state that seniors are three times more likely not to have a voter ID than the average Minnesotan.

    The second problem is that all of these numbers are just estimates, even what DPS put together. There are numerous factors that can explain the difference between the estimates that are provided: 1. The mortality rate is an estimate 2. People move, thus making their ID no longer valid, yet DPS would not know that the ID is no longer valid 3. This does not look at citizenship numbers.

    The fact is that Minnesota does not have an exact number of people that will be disenfranchised because of this law. DPS would have to release its data and then someone would have to do a one to one match with the voter registration records. Until that is done, all we have are estimates. At a minimum, this voter ID law would disenfranchise 70,000 seniors (according to the DPS figure) and that is not an insignificant number.

  • Chris

    Of course, by proving the specific number to be false, MPR has proven Rep. Simon’s larger point to be true, which is that the legislation will increase the burden on a fundamental constitutional right for a substantial number of Minnesota’s elderly.

  • Kathy

    MPR stated that according to the, “Minnesota Department of Public Safety, about 10.5 percent of Minnesotans 65 and older do not have some form of photo identification.” That does not mean that 10.5 percent of Minnesota’s voting population who are 65 and older do not have a valid ID.

    Note that there may be a difference between the total number of people who are registered and active voters who don’t have a valid ID compared to the total population, who may or may not be registered voters.

    Recently, the North Carolina State Board of Elections, which in some ways is similar to Minnesota Secretary of State, compared its list of active voters to North Carolina’s Division of Motor Vehicles to determine how many voters had a valid ID. It found that 13.4% of all North Carolina Voters who were 65 and older do not have valid IDs.

    It also examined data based on the total number of active voters who did not have IDs.It found that within that subset, 32.4% of them were 65 years old and older.

    Similarly, the Brennan Center for Justice reported that 16.4% registered voters in Indiana over the age of 68 did not have an ID.

    Like the North Carolina study, it focused on registered/active voters and not just the general population.

    Poligraph’s information is incomplete, because it only highlights the 10.5% of people in Minnesota who are 65 and older do not have a valid ID. It does not focus on Minnesota’s VOTING POPULATION who are 65 years and older who do not have a valid ID. This is not mere semantics: there is a difference between the general population who do not have IDs and the population who are VOTERS who don’t have IDs.

    Is PoliGraph wrong? I’m not sure— the problem is that it uses the general population dataset and not the voting population dataset as the basis of its determination of accuracy.

    Thus, we still do not know the total percent of Minnesota voters who are 65 and older who would not have valid IDs to vote.

  • Pete

    Whether it is 10.5% of the people 65 years old or older who are active voters, or 10.5% of all people 65 years old or older, is irrelevant. If it is 1 person who loses their constitutional right to vote, it is too many. Article 1, Section 17 of the Minnesota Constitution says “No religious test or amount of property shall be required as a qualification of any voter at any election in this state.” Requiring the ownership of a piece of property with a photograph is clearly forbidden, and a right states like Indiana and Georgia do not grant their citizens.

    Poligraph should have put this as “Misleading” because the numbers are off or from Wisconsin, but obviously this is not “False” and Rep. Simon’s point is still valid.

  • Sherri Knuth

    Proponents of voter ID legislation have repeatedly pointed to the number of provisional ballots in Wisconsin elections to argue that we won’t have many provisional ballots in MN if voters must show photo IDs. But Wisconsin has never had a photo ID requirement for any election, so this comparison is completely invalid.

    On the other hand, Wisconsin does have senior citizens, as does Minnesota. And whatever the number without state-issued photo IDs, it is still in the tens of thousands. These voters will face obstacles, insurmountable in some cases, in exercising a basic constitutional right.

    Please conduct fact checks on the numerous misstatements made by the proponents of photo ID bills.

  • Jamie

    I agree with most of these comments.

    The real need for fact-checking is indeed with the spin and lies from Republicans.