Column: A right, not a priviledge
ST. PAUL -- Recently both the Minnesota House and Senate passed a proposed constitutional amendment that would require voters to show a government issued photo identification before casting their ballot. The bill passed both bodies with solely Republican votes. In the last two years, few topics have received as much attention or been debated more than the bill simply known as "photo ID."
Last year the legislation was debated for months in numerous committees and finally passed, but was then vetoed by Gov. Mark Dayton. This year, the tactic has been to put the question directly to the voters in the form of a constitutional amendment. Upon final approval by the Legislature, the question of requiring a photo ID for voting would be placed on the November ballot, without the need of the governor's approval.
Why this issue has encountered such a partisan divide is difficult for most people to understand. My first foray into the debate over photo I.D. came in 2001, when I was Chair of the House State Government Finance Committee. That year in the Omnibus State Government Finance bill there was a provision that would have required a photo ID to vote. The issue received little debate, and the bill passed the House with 69 votes. Despite the lack of debate on the issue -- as it passed in the House -- during the month-long negotiations with our DFL counterparts in the State Senate, they refused to even discuss the issue of photo ID. I was as perplexed then as I am now as to why liberals believe that identity verification with a photo ID is an impediment to voting.
Since the House passage of photo ID in 2001, we have moved into a time where more and more exchanges of personal information are taking place without face-to- face interactions. Nearly 12 million Americans were victims of identity theft in 2011. Maybe it is this epidemic that has made protecting and verifying identification not only a priority, but a standard practice in our society. Today, showing a photo ID has become as common as being asked for the last four digits of your social security number. We are asked to show a photo ID to cash a check, rent a car, buy alcohol or cigarettes or board an airplane; it's a part of our American culture.
The simple fact is that providing a photo ID at the polling place will help ensure the integrity of our election process. No one will be prevented from voting, even if they can't produce one on the spot.
Liberals don't have a problem with needing a photo ID to board an airplane; they even approve of full body scans and patdowns to protect our personal safety. But they concede that all you have to do in order to cast a ballot is show a recent utility bill.
Liberals believe in fiercely enforcing all of our other age-based laws. They support government-orchestrated sting operations to bust retailers who fail to ask for photo ID when selling cigarettes to a minor. But when it comes to voting, the same standards don't apply. We have provisional drivers licenses for young drivers, but liberals don't want provisional ballots for voters without proper identification.
The Minnesota Constitution already spells out the requirements to cast a ballot. According to the Constitution, you must be a citizen of the United States for three months and be 18 years of age. You must have resided in the precinct for 30 days preceding the election in order to be entitled to vote. It also states that no person shall be entitled or permitted to vote if they have been convicted of a felony (unless their rights have been restored), or if they are under guardianship or otherwise deemed not mentally competent.
Voting is a right that every eligible citizen should exercise. But with every "right" there comes responsibilities. The responsibility to properly register to vote. The responsibility of every voter to know their polling place and hours of operation. It might even be a good idea to learn about the candidates and issues that will be on the ballot before you vote.
The opportunity of every eligible citizen in our republic to cast a ballot is a great privilege, and we should do everything possible to protect the integrity of their vote. Photo ID is not an impediment to voting; it should be a fundamental part of voting.
Phil Krinkie is a former state representative and current president of the Taxpayers League of Minnesota.