Minnesota's state Senate passed by a vote of 37-26 a bill that would require all residents to produce photo identification before they can vote. The Minnesota House is considering similar legislation.
As in other states, the Republican lawmakers who pushed the vote through argue that stricter laws are needed to ensure the integrity of elections. But according to Democrats, there is no evidence of widespread voter fraud and such bills serve only to hinder the ability of low-income, minority and elderly people to vote.
“This is just a raw attempt to keep minority voters who are mostly Democrats from voting. That’s it. Period,” said David Bositis, senior research analyst at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies. “The only voter fraud that takes place in elections is Republicans trying to keep minorities from voting.”
Sen. John Harrington, the body’s only African-American and a member of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, told Minnesota Public Radio (MPR) that he thinks many people of color would be disenfranchised.
“To say that that’s not a poll tax I think is disingenuous,” Harrington said. “My read of what a poll tax was historically was that it’s a precondition for the right to vote. Whether it’s de facto or implicit, it’s still a precondition. And what this photo ID does is it creates a precondition to the right to vote,” he said.
Calling it a poll tax may be a bit of an exaggeration, but he does have a point. Even though the IDs would be provided at no cost, some people will inevitably incur the cost of getting certain documentation, such as a birth certificate, that they’ll need to get the free ID.
Florida Gov. Mark Dayton also isn’t convinced that there’s a need for voter ID legislation and could veto the bill, but that doesn’t mean it will then be dropped. According to MPR, Republicans have already introduced legislation to make the issue a ballot amendment and let voters decide.