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Myths versus Reality

There is an astonishing amount of misinformation being propagated in the debate over requiring voters to show photo ID at the polls in Minnesota.

Mostly, the false statements about Minnesota’s proposed Voter ID amendment are nothing but talking points developed by national organizations who don’t even understand Minnesota’s unique voting laws, or the constitutional amendment that’s been designed to strengthen them. They’re simply the same talking points these groups have used in every other state where there’s been a debate on Voter ID.

To help dispel some of the most common myths, we’ve developed a helpful reference debunking the usual false claims made by Voter ID opponents (click here for a printable version of this information).


Myth: 700,000 Minnesotans will be unable to vote if Voter ID is passed.

Fact: This number has no basis in reality. ID opponents point to figures from the secretary of state’s office purporting that approximately 200,000 Minnesotans lack current photo ID. The other 500,000 is roughly the number of voters who used Election Day registration in 2008. Since the Voter ID Amendment doesn’t do away with Election Day registration, that number is simply irrelevant. Some portion of the 200,000 remaining are likely not eligible to vote (according to census data there are approximately 200,000 non-citizens residing inMinnesota, for example), and for the rest, lacking ID isn’t the same as lacking tonsils or an appendix. It’s not permanent. Voters will always be able to obtain a free state-issued photo ID at any time.

Myth: Voters (like students) who move frequently will be disenfranchised by Voter ID.

Fact: Minnesota’s Voter ID proposal as introduced in the 2011 legislative session (SF509) makes provisions for people who have recently moved and don’t have their current address on their driver’s license or state-issued ID. It allows a voter to present their ID with their former address along with a renewal slip showing the voters’ current address in the precinct. That renewal slip can be obtained immediately, on Election Day if needed.

Voters who run into difficulty and who need more time to obtain a renewal slip or new license, state ID or voter ID card would be provided a provisional ballot, allowing them a full additional week to obtain the necessary ID and present it to have their ballot counted.

The bill also offers a voter ID card at no charge for those who need them.

Myth: Minnesota has the best election system in the country.

Fact:Minnesota’s election system, which combines Election Day registration with vouching, is among the least secure election systems in the country. We’re one of only two states that allow this, and one of only 6 who don’t employ provisional ballots.

It may be the best election system for proponents of loose elections and voter fraud, but it is not the best for those who are concerned with fair and secure elections that are free of corruption.

With nearly 200 recent voter fraud convictions,Minnesotais now leading the nation in convictions for voter fraud. Not a very noble distinction. Worse, it wasn’t our election system that caught the fraud, but an outside non-profit organization.

Myth: Voting is a right, so we can’t require ID.

Fact: Voting is a right, but it’s a qualified right. InMinnesota, a voter must be a resident of the state, a citizen, at least 18 years of age and must live in the precinct. A voter can’t be a convicted felon whose rights have not yet been restored and can’t be under a guardianship in which the right to vote has been revoked by the court. In addition, each eligible voter is entitled to only one ballot in an election.  The Voter ID system proposed for Minnesota simply verifies that a voter meets the constitutional qualifications for voting.

The 2nd Amendment to the US Constitution guarantees the right to keep and bear arms, yet photo ID is required to purchase a handgun.

Myth: Voter ID constitutes a “poll tax”

Fact: Every state that has a photo ID requirement to vote also makes suitable ID available to voters at no charge.Minnesota’s Voter ID proposal is no exception.

Myth: Certain groups of voters will be disenfranchised.

Fact: When the League of Women Voters, the NAACP and Common Cause sued the state ofGeorgia to stop a new Voter ID law based on claims of disenfranchisement, the judge upheld the law. In his ruling, he said that the League’s failure, despite their efforts, to uncover anyone “‘who can attest to the fact that he/she will be prevented from voting’ provides significant support for the conclusion that the Photo ID requirement does not unduly burden the right to vote.”

A similar Voter ID law enacted inIndianawas upheld by the United States Supreme Court despite the same unfounded protests of the League of Women Voters and their allies.

While it’s true that some eligible voters currently lack valid photo ID, there’s nothing stopping them from obtaining one. The state will provide one at no charge.

Myth: People in temporary shelters will have difficulty voting.

Fact: The Voter ID bill passed in 2011 was very well thought out and after dozens of hours of public testimony was finalized in a way that addresses every conceivable unusual voting situation, including residence in temporary shelters. Under the plan, shelter administrators could provide residents a special document sufficient to establish their residence in the shelter.

Myth: There is no voter fraud.

Fact: Minnesota now leads the nation in convictions for voter fraud with 200 recent convictions of ineligible voters.Minnesota’s Statewide Voter Registration System contains thousands of challenged entries due to undeliverable official election mail called postal verification cards. Over 6,000 Election Day registrants provided names or addresses that could not be verified after their ballots were accepted and counted in the 2008 election. An NAACP executive was recently convicted on 10 counts of voter fraud inMississippi. InTroy,New York, a conspiracy to commit voter fraud by voting in other people’s names was uncovered that involved city council members and other election officials. Several have pled guilty.

The instances of voter fraud that have been caught and prosecuted go on and on, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Most voter fraud is nearly impossible to detect and prosecute because we can’t identify the actual voters with out photo ID.

Myth: Voter ID will reduce voter turnout.

Fact: Voter turnout has increased in every state which has adopted a Voter ID requirement. Increasing public confidence in the election system leads to increased participation.

Myth: Voter ID will only prevent “voter impersonation,” but not other forms of fraud.

Fact: Eligibility verification is tied to voter ID. Under the 21st Century Voter ID proposal, non-citizens, ineligible felons and ineligible wards would be detected and prevented from voting when they scanned their ID into a terminal pre-loaded with voter status information from a central database.

“Voter impersonation,” is a misleading misnomer. WithMinnesota’s combination of unverifiable Election Day registration and vouching, identities can be invented out of thin air. That’s not impersonation, it’s creating a false identity, which is also prevented by Voter ID.