Questions on how the proposed constitutional amendment would impact absentee voting by mail, by those voting overseas, and by those voting in mail-ballot precincts:
The proposed amendment states that, “All voters, including those not voting in person, must be subject to substantially equivalent identity and eligibility verification prior to a ballot being cast or counted.”
This means that absentee and mail ballot voters will have to have their identity and eligibility verified in a way equal to that of voters who vote in-person. But how is this possible? In Minnesota over 210,000 ballots in a presidential year are cast by absentee, mail-in or overseas voters. This includes the 195,000 Minnesotans who voted absentee by mail, the approximately 11,500 military and overseas voters and the 45,000 registered voters in mail ballot precincts around the state.
In-person voters will have their identity verified by presenting a valid government-issued photo ID to the election judge who can look at the voter and then at the picture on the ID to ensure that they are the same person. How could someone who is in Arizona or Iraq have their identity verified in a substantially equivalent way, when they cannot physical present their ID in person and clearly are not there for the election judge to see?
Some have suggested that voters could provide a photocopy of their ID card; however, without seeing the voter, how do we know that it is really theirs and that they didn’t make a photocopy of someone else’s ID? This does not seem to be a secure solution.
Others have suggested that voters be required to provide an identification number that election officials can verify. However, there are several problems with this idea. First, not all government issued photo-identification lists a number. Second, without seeing the voter, how would an election official know that the voter provided their own name and ID number? Also, the state does not have the ability to verify all types of ID numbers that could be provided, such as numbers found on U.S. Passports. Finally, since no voter is exempted from this provision, this would mean that all absentee and mail ballot voters would be required to have a government issued photo-identification to vote, and that is not currently the case. Some seniors who have given up driving, particularly women who were never employed outside of their homes, do not have any of these documents and may have a difficult and costly time obtaining them.
As for having their eligibility verified, this will also be challenging for some absentee and mail ballot voters. Same day registrants demonstrate their eligibility to vote in the precinct by providing current proof of residence – usually either a Minnesota driver’s license with their current address or a current utility bill. But many military voters in particular will not have this type of documentation available to them. Often their state driver’s licenses or ID cards have an old address on them or have expired, and they won’t have utility bills with them if they’re stationed away from home. Will they be prohibited from voting?
Requiring absentee voters to provide proper proof of residence will also be challenging for some seniors. Some will still have a Minnesota driver’s license or state ID card, but with their last address, if they have not updated it since they moved into a nursing facility. Will they have the resources and wherewithal to get to the DMV, which may be more than 80 miles away? If not, and if they live in a facility in which they do not receive utility bills, how will they provide proof of residence? Will they be prohibited from voting?
Prepared by the Office of the Secretary of State.
For further information, please contact Beth Fraser at 651-201-1334 or email@example.com