Pro: People with disabilities should not be demeaned
I believe that a voter ID amendment to the Minnesota Constitution will suppress votes, the votes of ineligible people—and I am all for it. But wait, opponents say, what about the disabled people in Minnesota who can’t be expected to measure up to their civic duty like the rest of us? Well, I would like to address that question because I am not one of “us.”
I am one of “those” would-be voters who has had a chronic disability – multiple sclerosis – since I was 16 years old. I recently spent three days in the hospital getting infusions that will allow me to get around a little bit better. I am sometimes unable to drive. So I know a little about what somebody who is handicapped and doesn’t have an ID may need to go through to obtain one: She can do it, especially with the help of the countless number of Minnesotans like those who jump up to assist me every chance they get.
Who are these politicians and political operatives spending millions of dollars to spread the view that handicapped individuals are crying out for special treatment that will exempt us from a simple burden we are proud to carry? I, and I believe the vast majority of my peers, want to be seen by others as able to meet the special challenges God has given us, and to be happy to participate along with everyone else in the great American get together—not the State Fair—the state elections.
Recently, I rented a Rug Doctor. You guessed it; I had to show my photo ID. You know what? I am just as interested in clean elections as I am in clean carpets. I am tired of being used as a political pawn by opponents whom I never hear ex press any concern over the integrity of our elections. They don’t care about that. They say there is no problem even though Minnesota leads the nation in voter fraud convictions. Most of the illegal votes that helped elect Al Franken in 2008 were cast by ineligible felons who would have been stopped if the state had in place a system for checking election day registrants to see if they are felons whose voting rights have not been restored. Showing a photo ID would allow election judges to check databases to identify such ineligible voters on the spot, before they cast their ballots.
If opponents truly cared about those who might have a hard time getting an ID, they would be gathering those people up and helping them day and night to get one. Are they doing that? No. Instead, they are spending millions of dollars on lawsuits and advertising and activism to thwart the will of 80% of Minnesotans.
Other states have ID laws and don’t have any problem. Provisional ballots are used in more than 45 states and they take care of the situations where someone doesn’t have their ID on election day. Their ballots are held in envelopes for a few days until they identify themselves and then the ballots are counted.
It is sickening that voter ID opponents are exaggerating and misleading in order to further their political ends. And I am tired of being demeaned by them.
Elizabeth Mansfield, Isanti
Minnesota Voters Alliance volunteer
Con: People with disabilities could be the big losers
People with disabilities could be the big losers in this election if Minnesota voters approve the voter ID amendment on the Nov. 6 ballot. The amendment would create unnecessary barriers and burdens that could prevent people with disabilities from exercising their right to vote.
In 2011 Gov. Mark Dayton vetoed a bill, passed by the Minnesota Legislature, to require every voter to present a photo ID before casting a ballot. However, in the 2012 legislative session proponents of the measure passed a bill to amend the Minnesota Constitution and make major changes to our system of elections and voting. The amendment restricts or limits the privilege of voting ONLY to those voters that have the appropriate ID.
Requiring all voters to have a specific ID in order to exercise their right to vote becomes a significant barrier, since 10 percent of voters with disabilities do not have the ID the amendment would require, according to the League of Women Voters Minnesota. As many as 27,000 Minnesotans with disabilities would have to overcome this barrier to vote. Even if the state provides “free” IDs, getting the documentation for the ID costs time and money.
This is how the voter ID requirement becomes a barrier and financial burden:
• Getting documentation, such as a birth certificate, to prove personal identity costs money for transportation and fees for copies.
• Having a copy made of one’s birth certificate costs $26 in Minnesota.
• Securing the proper ID, once a person has proof of identity, then traveling to the appropriate county or state office results in more travel costs
• Registering to vote on election day would require using a provisional ballot that wouldn’t be counted until the voter comes back after the election to prove his/her identity.
• Vouching for your neighbor at the election site would not be allowed.
Setting up the new process for voter IDs could cost cities and counties and the state. A University of Minnesota study estimated that the first-year costs of the amendment would be $32.9 million, and that local governments would pay 85 percent of those costs. The amendment creates an unfunded mandate for local governments that already face severe cuts.
Now people with disabilities, seniors, students, absentee voters and military personnel can depend on neighbors who vouch for them or absentee ballots to make it easy to vote. Voter restriction laws hinder their ability to have a voice in deciding who our leaders will be and can silence their voice in decisions that affect them.
This amendment is not about fraud prevention, which is one of the reasons proponents are pushing for passage. This proposed amendment is more about preventing access to voting for thousands of people with disabilities, seniors, students and others.
Kay Willshire, St. Paul
Disability community volunteer