In light of the Franken and Coleman voter recount, many have called for a more stringent voter registration process, including requiring photo IDs to vote and eliminating same day voter registration. I believe the current system supports election integrity and ensures our citizens every opportunity to fully participate in our democracy.
Minnesota has had a long tradition of clean elections with very few instances of voter fraud. The requirement of photo identification could possibly disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of legally-registered voters in this state. The Secretary of State’s Office currently estimates that there are 135,000 senior citizens in the state that don’t have a state driver’s license or a Minnesota ID card. In addition, such a change could also have a negative impact on the voting rights of students and minorities.
The requirement to limit the time an individual has for registration could have an alarming effect on voter participation. Currently, Minnesota allows registration on Election Day if an individual can provide specific legal documentation of their residence in their precinct, or they may have an already qualified registered voter vouch for their residence. People who register on Election Day do so for a varying number of reasons, including recently moving to a new residence. I do not believe that anyone should be disenfranchised from their legal right to vote simply because of moving or economic hardship. Citizens should all be allowed to vote as long as they meet the state’s legal requirement to do so.
Under current Minnesota law any individual who commits voter fraud, such as voting more than once, misrepresenting their identity in applying for a ballot, or aiding someone who is not eligible to vote, is guilty of a felony. This represents a strong deterrent to individuals who attempt to subvert the election process.
In 2006, five non citizens were found to have voted in Minnesota. They were removed from the rolls, their votes were stricken, and three were referred to the county prosecutor’s office for prosecution. In the entire United States, the Department of Justice charged 89 individuals with voter fraud between October 2002 and August 2005. During that same time period, 196,139,871 voters cast a ballot. This amounts to a minuscule voter fraud percentage.
The laws are in place and being followed and enforced. The good news is that our election judges and others do a great deal of work to ensure there is no fraud and that every vote counts.
As a life-long Civics teacher, I have always supported initiatives to maintain verification of registration applications and integrity in the voting process. Minnesota has a long history of strong voter participation and a longer history of honest and clean elections. After this recount, I trust Minnesota’s reputation in that regard will remain untarnished.