Minnesota Officials Propose Third Way On Voter ID That Prevents Fraud Without Disenfranchising Voters

Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie and Gov. Mark Dayton

The debate over voting rights, which sprung up again with force last year, comes down to a simple issue in the end: access versus integrity. Progressives want to ensure that everyone, regardless of race or wealth, has equal access to the ballot box, while conservatives are preoccupied with preventing voter fraud, whatever the cost. This dynamic played out in dozens of legislatures last year as states used the (spurious) prospect of voter fraud to justify major new restrictions on the right to vote, from voter ID bills to registration restrictions to cuts in early voting.

Now, two Minnesota officials are putting forth a proposal that could break this deadlock by allaying conservative fears over voter fraud while also ensuring that no eligible voters are disenfranchised.

Currently, the Republican-controlled Minnesota legislature is advancing a bill to enact voter ID restrictions in the North Star State. Gov. Mark Dayton (D) and Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, who oppose the measure, are proposing an alternative that could prevent fraud without denying Minnesotans the right to vote. Here’s how it would work:

With an electronic “poll book,” eligible voters who have lost an ID or no longer carry one could come to the polling place and have their electronic information pulled up from state records, Ritchie said.

He said about 84,000 Minnesota voters don’t carry photo ID, but in many cases, they would have photos in the state drivers’ database. For those who don’t, another ID could be scanned in or a photo could be taken at the polling place.

“We would not be disenfranchising anybody and we would not be breaking the bank,” Ritchie said.

Republican reaction to this proposal will be interesting to watch. If their real concern is, in fact, preventing voter fraud, then expect Minnesota GOPers to jump on board with this plan, which uses the electronic “poll book” to ensure that every voter is indeed who they claim to be. However, if their real concern is disenfranchising voters who lean Democratic, their opposition to this proposal will be no surprise.

State Rep. Mary Kiffmeyer (R) gave a hint about the Republican response on Thursday. Kiffmeyer, who’s sponsoring the state’s voter ID bill, said she did not think Dayton and Ritchie’s proposal goes far enough and would press forward to enact voter ID.