Voter ID and the person in the military

Is this ad wrong?

An organization pushing the voter ID amendment in Minnesota filed a complaint with Minnesota campaign overlords today, arguing that the assertion that a military ID won’t be considered a valid ID is flat-out wrong.

“To them, military IDs aren’t valid IDs,” the young man says.

The truth? Nobody really knows yet because the legislation going before the voters is nothing if not vague. Voters are being asked to vote on a principle — the idea of showing a photo ID before voting — than a finely crafted piece of legislation that’s intended to tell you everything there is to know before you decide whether it warrants changing the state’s Constitution..

Consider this from MPR’s Molly Bloom and Curtis Gilbert:

The fact is, the legislation is unspecific when it comes to saying how the bill would work. This is the entire piece of legislation:


An amendment to the Minnesota Constitution is proposed to the people. If the amendment is adopted, article VII, section 1, will read:

Section 1. (a) Every person 18 years of age or more who has been a citizen of the United States for three months and who has resided in the precinct for 30 days next preceding an election shall be entitled to vote in that precinct. The place of voting by one otherwise qualified who has changed his residence within 30 days preceding the election shall be prescribed by law. The following persons shall not be entitled or permitted to vote at any election in this state: A person not meeting the above requirements; a person who has been convicted of treason or felony, unless restored to civil rights; a person under guardianship, or a person who is insane or not mentally competent.

(b) All voters voting in person must present valid government-issued photographic identification before receiving a ballot. The state must issue photographic identification at no charge to an eligible voter who does not have a form of identification meeting the requirements of this section. A voter unable to present government-issued photographic identification must be permitted to submit a provisional ballot. A provisional ballot must only be counted if the voter certifies the provisional ballot in the manner provided by law.

(c) All voters, including those not voting in person, must be subject to substantially equivalent identity and eligibility verification prior to a ballot being cast or counted.


(a) The proposed amendment must be submitted to the people at the 2012 general election. If approved, the amendment is effective July 1, 2013, for all voting at elections scheduled to be conducted November 5, 2013, and thereafter. The question submitted must be:

“Shall the Minnesota Constitution be amended to require all voters to present valid photo identification to vote and to require the state to provide free identification to eligible voters, effective July 1, 2013?

There’s nothing in the legislation that says how voter ID is going to work, but there’s also nothing in the legislation that says military IDs won’t be honored.

But we do have a sense of who won’t be given any exemptions — veterans in nursing homes and students away at school.

In particular, four amendments were offered in both the House and Senate debate last spring.

One would have given veterans living in a state veterans home a pass. But the amendment was rejected on a 71-to-63 vote. (March 20) in the House. It lost 36-to-30 in the Senate. (March 23)

Another amendment would’ve given a voter living and voting in a state-licensed care facility (old people, basically) a pass. It lost 71-to 63 (March 20) in the House. It lost 35-30 in the Senate. (March 23)

Students “enrolled in a public or private post-secondary institution located within or outside the state” might’ve also been exempted. But that, too, lost in the Senate 36-to-30. (March 23)

And, finally, Senate Republicans turned aside an exemption for anyone living in a precinct where mail-in voting was allowed. That failed along party lines, too.

Curiously, at least as near as I’ve been able to tell, nobody tried to propose an amendment during the floor debate that specifically would have said, “if you’re in the military and you’ve got an ID, you’re good.” It would have been so simple.

But all of this is going to be worked out by the next Legislature, which gives this year’s legislative races all the more importance. Also curiously, few candidates running for the Legislature seem to be playing that fact up.

  • Mark Gisleson

    Bob, good reporting on this one. Judge the Republicans by their actions, not their words. They’re on record as having opposed common sense exemptions to their draconian “one person = one official state I.D.” nonsense.

    I grew up on a farm where John Birch society literature was a coffee table staple. The Birchers used to rail against universal I.D.s as Communist inspired.

    There is nothing conservative about the GOP’s voter suppression strategies: they want to stop non-Republicans from voting, and will engage in all manner of lies and distortions to get their way.

  • Robert Moffitt

    “But all of this is going to be worked out by the next Legislature…”

    Only if it passes. It’s up to us now, my fellow citizens.

  • Robert Hemphill

    Thanks for reporting.

    It’s also important to note that military ID’s don’t have a current address, which raises the question of if they would count as a “valid government-issued ID”.

    Additionally, you mention the idea of exceptions. Most states create some exceptions, for military, seniors, people escaping domestic violence, etc. Ours has no exceptions.

  • jon

    Thanks for the article Bob.

    This is a ridiculous amendment to solve a problem that doesn’t exist, and it has a cost to go with it.

    Better still it is brought to you by the same people who questioned if the state could afford disaster aid for Duluth, and the same people who had no issue expanding gambling to pay for a new stadium. (I know the stadium was pushed on a much more bipartisan then either of the two amendments)

    On a deeper level it’s hard to see this as anything other then a shameless power grab by the people who managed to hold a majority in the legislature. Hopefully people will start to see this, and start electing officials that will support free and fair elections (the kind we demand in foreign countries that have oil reserves.)

  • Carol

    This is clearly off topic, but there is also nothing that clarifies what “present” means. I remember some stories last election about the election workers taking the IDs from the voters and putting them through some sort of scanning machine. Or maybe they were from the caucuses.

    Eiuther way, that’s clearly NOT in the wording of the amendment.

    I’m pretty sure I would not allow them to do that unless they can clearly answer my questions about what they are collecting, how it is stored and for how long, who has access to it, how it is protected and how they dispose of it. I’m also pretty sure they wouldn’t know the answers to those questions.

    I wish we could get some followup on those stories.

  • You want an exception to military ID’s being accepted (as the amendment already does)? Are you saying military ID shouldn’t be accepted?

    How do you make an exception for something that conforms to the rule?

    Clearing up misconceptions from the comments:

    The amendment (please for the love of Pete will somebody read it, already?! — it’s right there in this “article”) doesn’t contain the words “address” or “residence.” Residence is established by current statutes. So whether military ID has an address or not isn’t relevant. It’s government-issued and has a photo. Now, go back and read the amendment. What’s it say?

    Oh. Government-issued photographic ID? Huh. Well, how about that?

    So why do we need to specify military ID? Why do military voters need an “exception?”

    See, the authors know our election laws (and federal laws and court rulings) and wrote the amendment correctly for the desired outcome. If you don’t understand what it does, try reading it first.

    One last thing about this diabolical Republican plot to disenfranchise military voters – Why on Earth would Republicans want to prevent votes from a voting block that breaks toward their party? Makes no sense. It’s an evil Republican plot to get fewer Republican votes! Sure it is.

  • BJ

    So glad that Dan McGrath commented.

    Dan answer me this question. Is a Driver’s license valid if I moved 2 years ago but didn’t update my address? If it is valid and I go to vote after this pass’s but my ID has different address than voter registration what stops them from saying it isn’t me? If I have to vote provisional because of this, but since my ID was valid, how do I get my vote to count?

    Dan you and your website like to try and make this simple. The fact is your ‘proof’ is just lying with numbers. Using data from 2008 and then returned voter cards numbers from 2009 and 2010 to prove your point. But it only proves that 2 years later someone might not live at where they registered at on election day 2008.

  • Bob Collins

    // See, the authors know our election laws (and federal laws and court rulings) and wrote the amendment correctly for the desired outcome. If you don’t understand what it does, try reading it first.

    Fact check.

    Even the authors acknowledge it’s an incomplete piece of legislation.

    “If I’m back next year, I certainly would hope that I would be involved in the legislation that will be necessary to implement the constitutional amendment,” said state Sen. Scott Newman, R-Hutchinson, a chief author of the amendment bill. ” — MPR 1-/11/12

    If the problem is only that we haven’t read the legislation, why is an author saying addition legislation is necessary to implement it?

    Mary Kiffmeyer, the primary sponsor of the bill, noted in an interview on WTIP earlier this month that the bill is not about procedures, it’s about policy, noting that no other constitutional amendment voted on in Minnesota history has had procedures in place.

    She also indicated, as did I, that there’s nothing in the amendment prohibiting vote by mail or military voting.

  • Jennifer

    I took a look at the Voter ID bill vetoed by Gov. Dayton in 2011. Given that it is largely written by the same people as the amendment, I figure it will at least give some idea of how they would like to write the bill. In it, the section listing acceptable forms of ID, does not include military IDs. Granted, we don’t know exactly how the bill will be written should this pass, but it is notable that the first time they tried, military IDs were not accepted. I’d guess that’s where the claim in this ad comes from.

  • Bob Collins

    I don’t know if Mr. McGrath is coming back to check on the thread or not but it seems only fair I post his email to me on the subject:

    The types of photo ID allowed in our election system are determined by the Secretary of State in administrative rules. Military ID is currently allowed in the rules. The amendment doesn’t preclude military ID. Therefore exceptions for military voters are not necessary. The amendment can’t render military ID invalid.

    The ad is a lie. Period. Rather than concede that obvious fact, you jump around to other subjects and state “nobody really knows.” I beg to differ.

    The amendment does what the amendment says it does. It clearly doesn’t invalidate military ID.

    I suppose the Secretary of State could someday change his mind and advance new rules that don’t allow Military IDs, but not because of the text inserted into the Constitution. With our without the amendment, a future legislature could take that power away from the secretary of state. To claim that it WILL happen as a result of the amendment is PLAINLY false.

    There are few aspects of the bill the legislature must deal with next year. One is provisional ballots: How long do voters have, and what’s the certification process? The other is Election Day eligibility verification: Paper, electronic, or both. They’ll also have to appropriate money for IDs and voter education. That’s about it.

    Senator Newman was the Senate sponsor of the Voter ID amendment, but it was written by Rep. Kiffmeyer, who served 8 years as Secretary of State and has worked for years on Voter ID. She knows the amendment and it’s interaction with current statutes, rules, court rulings and federal laws in a way that few others do. She’s better equipped to explain the effects than just about anybody else.

    Exemptions are not needed for anyone. The state provides free ID. There’s a variance process for people needing ID who don’t have a birth certificate in state law already. Absentee voters will provide an ID number (like they already do 99%+ of the time). ID doesn’t need a current address under the amendment, so when grandma has to go to the nursing home for a while, she can still use her ID and get staff to vouch for her residence, or she can use her ID number to vote absentee. Students can use their home-state ID with a student housing list, fee or tuition statement, or they can vote absentee, or they can get a free ID and if all that fails, anyone can submit a provisional ballot. The amendment was written to ensure no eligible voter would be unable to vote.

    The fact is, everything negative I’ve ever heard about the amendment has had no basis in factual reality. It’s been nothing but wild-eyed, paranoid speculation about imagined future legislation. Legislation that could be written with or without the amendment, but it’s as likely as a bill to require ballots to be printed on Swiss cheese. Any legislation, amendment-related or otherwise will require cooperation and agreement of the House, Senate and Governor Dayton. Is Governor Dayton going to sign a bill to print ballots on Swiss Cheese, or eliminate Election Day registration, or prohibit military ID?

    Get real.

  • Chris N.

    Bob, could you clarify whether the text in italics is the quoted email to you (with the remainder your writing), or if the italicized part is a quote from the email, the remainder of the text is the rest of the email, and the first line is your only editorial comment?

  • Bob Collins

    Sorry. My fault. I forget that Moveable Type doesn’t translate an html instruction past a paragraph break in the comments section. Fixed. All italics are the email.

  • Chris N.

    No worries, thanks for clearing that up.

  • Jamie

    Dan McGrath says that anything negative he’s heard about the amendment is wild speculation, but he writes a wholeparagraph packed with nothing but speculation about how the amendment would work out all right for everyone.

    We (opponents) are not wild-eyed and paranoid, Mr. McGrath. We are just very well aware of what Republicans and the rich corporate special interests are attempting to do with this amendment and with all the other voter ID legislation around the country: suppress the Democratic vote. We are not fooled by your sophistry.

  • David Hallman

    The comments about excluding the military are ridiculous. When an amendment is written it is best to keep it short so it does not become confusing.The amendment directs the legislature to fine tune the details. For all you that think this will stop the military from voting I have the following points to make about that: (1) I am a disabled retired US Army retiree of 20 years service (2) The latest surveys are that 70 to 80 percent of the military vote Republican. It was almost the same for the past 50 years (3).Your premise is the Republicans want to make it harder for people to vote for them.(4) Maybe some of you should stay away from the medicinal marijuana.(5) It has been shown that states with voter ID have no appreciable downturn in voter registration or actual voting, To conclude, as usual, the liberals try to make points with no facts and definitely no reasonable common sense.

  • Jim!!!

    I think what the supporters of the bill are saying is “just trust us”. No thanks.

  • jon

    David Hallman,

    The military was not the target of this legislation. It was the poor (who vote overwhelmingly democrat) However since the poor out number the military now a days letting the military get caught up in this bill isn’t really all that much of a threat statistically.

    Please provide facts around “It has been shown that states with voter ID have no appreciable downturn in voter registration or actual voting” and please make sure that they aren’t fictional before sharing them. If you can not do so, then please don’t attack others for a lack of facts. All of the studies I’ve looked at on the topic have either been blatant propaganda or have said that it’s difficult to determine the net effect of voter ID because the number of effect people is small compared to the normal fluctuation of the percentage of voters.

    I personally believe that if 1 person is kept from voting (republican or democrat of libertarian or green or other.) then this amendment would be disenfranchising a voter, and removing a civil liberty all in the name of solving a problem that doesn’t exist.

    I believe that we have a limited amount of resources in this state, and that we should have higher priorities then solving problem that don’t exist for unknown sums of money that we don’t have.

    I believe that calling is a republican plot fits when only republicans voted to put the amendment on the ballots, while referring to it as a conspiracy might be a bit of a stretch, plot seems like a fitting word to me.

    I also believe that the definition of the word “Government” in the legislation presented above is ill defined. it does not say state government it does not say federal government. Nor does it say Canadian government. The use of the word valid also adds ambiguity is my photo ID valid if it is expired? is it valid if it has the wrong address? is it still valid if it says I’m 6’4″ and 210lbs when i’m really 6’5″ and 180lbs?

    Back on the topic of funds, Do you know how long it currently takes to get a valid photo ID from the DMV? Do you know how this provisional ballot system would effect some one who had their wallet stolen the day before the election? Do you know what the cost of improving the DMV’s processing times to allow for photo ID to be issued in the unspecified time frame that provisional ballots would be held for? These are all un-answered questions that make this bill extremely sketchy.

    I believe that suggesting I’m on medical marijuana as though it has impaired my judgement manages to be offensive both to people who feel that Medical marijuana is a relief from the pain of terrible diseases and to those who know the difference between the words “Medical” and “Recreational.”

    I don’t personally understand why any one supports this amendment. If it would in fact disenfranchise the military then republicans should be opposed to it, if it would in fact disenfranchise the poor then democrats should oppose it, if it effects the elderly, then republicans again should oppose it, if it has any impact on the budget or the size of government then tea parties should oppose it. If it will disenfranchise one voter, then any one who has sworn to up hold the constitution should be opposed to it. The problem with this legislation is it sounds reasonable, and the law books are filled with well intentioned laws that had unforeseen side effects. Lets not rush into a plan because the rough outline seems reasonable, lets not write laws to solve problems that don’t exist, lets keep government small, and as a state, lets stand up and say that we do not need more legislation to solve problems we don’t have.

    one final thought, MN passed legislation to not participate in the real ID act, but here we are now, pushing for more photo ID’s checked more places…

    Thank you for your service in the military.

  • jtberken

    It is surprising that Mr. McGrath had to (angrily) argue points for this amendment that seem a lot of the same practices in current voting practice:

    -The other is Election Day eligibility verification: Paper, electronic, or both.

    -ID doesn’t need a current address under the amendment, so when grandma has to go to the nursing home for a while, she can still use her ID and get staff to vouch for her residence, or she can use her ID number to vote absentee.

    -Students can use their home-state ID with a student housing list, fee or tuition statement

    If the party that touts itself as small government and low regulations, it seems they are adding red tape and unneeded costs.

    One more thing that really peeves me, voting is a RIGHT. Driving and getting a checkbook (cutting edge technology :)) is a PRIVILAGE, period.

  • BJ

    Anyone that doesn’t say voting is a right needs to read the U.S. Constitution. Pay close attention to the 15th, 19th and 26th amendments.

    People have tried to restrict voting so much we had to add those amendments in.

    So I’m cool with a verification system to prevent double voting – this voter ID state amendment is no the answer it will not prevent what it’s supporters are saying is happening.

  • BJ

    If this was really about stopping double voting on election day, why not push for a election finger dye amendment?