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Commentary: The case for voter ID in Minnesota

The author, Minnesota State Sen. Paul Utke of Park Rapids, is a Republican who represents Senate District 2.

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District 2 State Sen. Paul Utke
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A couple weeks ago, the Minnesota Senate approved a broadly popular bill that would require Minnesotans to present a valid form of photo identification for in-person, absentee, and mail-in voting. If signed into law, this bill would make Minnesota the 37th state to require some form of identification to vote.

Voter ID initiatives have been a hot and popular topic throughout the country. In Minnesota specifically, nearly 70% of our population is in favor of the measure. In fact, our most recent elections have demonstrated clear evidence of the measure’s popularity. Following our elections, millions of Americans were extremely vocal in their beliefs of widespread voter fraud.

This distrust in the system further proves that there is a deep-seated lack of faith in our voting systems. Any lack of trust should be seen as justification for photo ID requirements — we should use every tool available to us so that we can ensure the elimination of any fraud whatsoever.

Not only would this bill require potential voters to present a form of photo ID, but it would also create a new voter identification card that would be available free of charge to individuals lacking proper identification. Opponents of this legislation often point to concerns that ID requirements are inequitable or discriminatory, citing the myth that getting an ID card is a burden. We were able to address that concern by including this important language so voters could get a free-of-charge Voter ID card. And anyone that finds themselves still unable to provide proof of identity would still be allowed to cast a provisional ballot. All these important provisions paired together preserve the sanctity of our elections, while keeping same-day voter registration completely intact. The most important fact to note is that not a single legal voter would be disenfranchised by Voter ID.

This isn’t a new issue. 2008 brought us the landmark Supreme Court Case, Crawford v. Marion County. The court held that an Indiana law requiring a photo ID to vote did not violate the U.S. Constitution, and there are “legitimate state interests” in voting law that require photo identification. These laws can help states deter, detect, and prevent voter fraud. In implementing these laws, election procedures can be improved and updated to build better confidence in voting systems. The court has also stated that federal law authorizes states to use a photo identification requirement to determine an individual’s eligibility to vote. Not to mention the fact that we already require folks to present IDs for driving, traveling, getting a fishing license, buying cough syrup, and many other activities. By all accounts, these photo ID laws shouldn’t be controversial.

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This is common sense legislation, and 70% of Minnesotans, regardless of party preference, agree. I’ve consistently supported these measures throughout my time in the Senate, and last week, I was happy to join a majority of the Senate to vote “yes” on this important legislation.

We simply need to find ways to restore faith and trust in our voting system. We don’t want to take away or limit anyone’s ability to vote, we just want to ensure every legal vote is counted fairly.

Our voting system is at its best when voters are able to participate in a process they trust. Voter ID requirements show that we’re listening to the people’s concerns, and we’re serious about eliminating any potential inconsistency or instances of fraud that could hurt our election system. I believe Minnesotans across the state will recognize and appreciate that we are hard at work to ensure all eligible voters are able to participate in our system, without fear that their vote will not be counted. We need to rebuild voters’ trust and confidence, but to do that, we need a secure process folks can believe in. I’m hopeful that in passing this legislation, we can take a step towards restoring faith in our political process.

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