Residents in Minnesota will decide this November whether voters must show government-issued photographic identification before casting a ballot, according to the Associated Press.
The constitutional amendment passed by a party-line vote in the Senate on Wednesday, with Democrats opposing the measure. Republicans said the proposed amendment would protect against voter fraud, but Democrats accused it of being a solution in search of a problem, which could disenfranchise legitimate voters.
“This is a partisan amendment based on a false premise that voter fraud is a significant problem in Minnesota,” Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton said in a statement. “Our election system is the best in the nation. We have the highest voter turnout year after year and under intense, bipartisan scrutiny, the recent statewide recounts have highlighted how reliable the results are.”
Republicans across the country have pushed for stricter voting regulations, such as voter ID laws, to protect against alleged voter fraud. More than 30 states have changed voter laws since 2008, including requiring voter identification cards, eliminating same-day registration on voting day, prohibiting ex-felons from ballot access, restricting early voting and requiring proof of citizenship.
But a report by New York University Law School’s Brennan Center for Justice found that changes to voting laws could suppress up to five million votes during the 2012 elections, particularly among young, minority and low-income voters, as well as those with disabilities.
Proponents of the new voting laws claim they are needed to prevent abuses that compromise the integrity of elections. However, critics are quick to point out the apparent lack of voter fraud.
“There have been allegations of impersonation at the polls, but they are notable for their rarity,” law professor Justin Levitt noted in the Election Law Journal. He claimed that most of the cases that are provided as evidence of voter fraud would not have been prevented by a voter ID law.
“In the most prominent forum to date for collecting such allegations, proponents of these rules cited nine votes since 2000 that were caused either by fraud that in-person identification rules could possibly stop or by innocent mistake. During the same period, 400 million votes were cast in general elections alone. Even assuming that each of the nine votes were fraudulent, that amounts to a relevant fraud rate of 0.000002 percent. Americans are struck and killed by lightning more often.”
The American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota is offering $1,000 to any resident of the state that can find a case of voter fraud that would have been prevented by a voter ID law.