Unsatisfied with Republican efforts to pass a constitutional amendment requiring photo ID to vote, Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie is pitching an alternative.
Ritchie, a Democrat, is backing legislation that’s in the works for an electronic poll book proposal he said will not disenfranchise as many people and will save the state money. An early stage of the plan could even go into effect this year, he said.
His plan could be implemented, in initial stages, by state-supplied paper election rosters which would draw upon state driver’s vehicle images to provide visual verification to identify voters. That could be implemented this year, Ritchie said, with software costs of approximately $200,000.
A more sophisticated access to a state data base could be implemented in the 2013 off-year elections at a cost of about $4 million, with full implementation in the 2014 general election costing about $7 million, Ritchie said.
The secretary of state detailed his plan Friday in an interview at the Dispatch. Earlier that day he had been at Camp Ripley in relation to his work on the Minnesota National Guard Senior Advisory Board.
Rep. Mary Kiffmeyer, R-Big Lake, who was Ritchie’s predecessor in the job, dismissed the electronic poll book proposal last week stating it could be a complement to the photo ID proposal but couldn’t serve as a substitute.
The electronic poll book plan, Ritchie said, would allow many seniors who have given up their driver’s licenses and have no ID to vote because the state’s driver license photos are kept on file digitally for 12 years.
“The advantage to this system is visual verification without disenfranchising voters and it doesn’t break the bank.” Ritchie said.
The constitutional amendment, if passed, would require the state to provide a photo ID free of charge, forever, Ritchie said. It also would set up a provisional voting system that, in his mind, would effectively eliminate same-day voter registration — a feature Minnesota voters have used since the 1970s. The amendment would allow people to register to vote on Election Day but that vote would not be counted until their information had been verified. The problem is, according to Ritchie, the clerical tasks necessary to verify registrations would be extremely difficult to complete in an expected time frame of three to 10 days during which they must be completed. Similarly, voters who showed up at the polls without their driver’s license ID could vote and then have it counted only when they returned to the courthouse with the ID. Ritchie contended the result is that many of those voters would not make it back to verify their information for one reason or another and those votes would not be counted.
Additional expenses of the constitutional requirement for photo ID, Ritchie said, would be the need for Internet-connected and interacting computers at all polling places.
The secretary of state said people want to find bipartisan solutions to voting issues and many people believe we shouldn’t be “fooling with the constitution.”
Township officials, he said, maintain the constitutional amendment solution would cost them $1.5 million statewide to conduct their March elections. His solution, he said, would be preferable.
“It’s a smart way to move Minnesota’s election registration into the future,” Ritchie said.
MIKE O’ROURKE may be reached at 855-5860 or email@example.com. He may be followed on Twitter at MikeORourkenews.