One year ago, a proposed Minnesota constitutional amendment that would write a common voter suppression law into that state’s constitution seemed all but certain to pass. According to a recent poll, however, support for voter ID in Minnesota has since taken a sharp downturn:
Minnesotans favor a constitutional change that would require voters to show government-issued photo ID before casting ballots, but their support has weakened dramatically over the past year, the Star Tribune Minnesota Poll has found.
Slightly more than half of likely voters polled — 52 percent — want the changes built around a photo ID requirement, while 44 percent oppose them and 4 percent are undecided.
That is a far cry from the 80 percent support for photo ID in a May 2011 Minnesota Poll, when the issue was debated as a change in state law. Support among Democrats has cratered during a year marked by court battles, all-night legislative debates and charges that the GOP is attempting to suppress Democratic votes. . . . But 52 percent approval is a thin margin for a constitutional amendment six weeks before the election. A change in the Constitution must secure a majority of “yes” votes from all ballots cast. That means a voter who doesn’t vote on the issue in effect votes no, setting a higher bar for passage.
The fact that support for voter ID began at such stratospheric levels reveals the challenge facing voting rights advocates. In reality, voter ID laws serve no purpose other than disenfranchising many elderly, minority, student and low-income voters, but the idea of requiring voters to show ID at the polls is intuitive to most Americans.
Nevertheless, the ballot initiative’s cratering support proves that this mistaken intuition can be defeated as voters come to understand that a person is more likely to be struck by lightning than to commit in-person voter fraud.