PIONEER PRESS: County Board in Minnesota votes to oppose voter ID constitutional amendment

October 9, 2012
Frederick Melo
news photo

Fearing that Minnesota's same-day voter-registration system could be replaced by provisional balloting, the Ramsey County Board of Commissioners voted to oppose a proposed state constitutional amendment that would require voters to show state-issued IDs at the polls.

County officials said they could not afford more unfunded state regulations, and they said the state has already forced counties to absorb the full cost of human service programs such as Meals on Wheels and intervention programs for teen run-aways.

"If you wanted to change this, you would need another amendment," board chairman Rafael Ortega said in an interview. "An amendment is serious business, when you change the constitution. It's an unfunded mandate."

The board voted 6-to-1 to oppose the voter ID amendment on Tuesday, Oct. 9, with Commissioner Janice Rettman opposed. Rettman noted that the board rarely takes public positions on political controversies and ballot issues.

Ortega and the other board members said the estimated costs of implementing voter-ID requirements could exceed $1.25 million for the county and $25 million for the state. County officials believe they would have to buy electronic pollbooks to verify each voter's ID.

"It would have a direct impact on local property taxes that the county would be responsible for levying," said Ramsey County Commissioner Jan Parker. "I don't think the voters really understand the impact of what's being proposed."

Amendment supporters have questioned the accuracy of those cost estimates.

In board documents, the county officials noted that same-day registration is a hallmark of voting in Minnesota. After Indiana instituted a voter ID requirement, those who arrived at the polls without a state-issued ID were required to cast provisional ballots, which are verified and counted days after the election. Only 13 percent of Indiana's provisional ballots were counted in 2008.