[Image courtesy of MinnPost]
Minnesota's legislature continues to move closer to a vote that would put a voter ID constitutional amendment on this year's ballot.
Generally, the debate in Minnesota has focused on the typical points of disagreement in the nationwide voter ID debate; namely, supporters' fear of fraud vs. opponents' fear of disenfranchisement. One issue, however, that isn't discussed as much but is very much on peoples' minds in the debate is the state's longstanding tradition of Election Day registration (EDR).
EDR is a key feature of the state's electoral and political history, but has been a source of tension between the political parties. In particular, many Republican legislators have expressed concern about the ability of voters to "vouch" for an EDR registrant at the polls, suggesting that such procedures create an opportunity for fraud - especially since EDR voters cast real votes that cannot be "taken back" if fraud is discovered or proven. Minnesota Democrats (or DFL, for Democrat-Farmer-Labor) counter that there is little evidence that such fraud actually occurs.
This becomes a factor in Minnesota's ID debate because of concerns that requiring proof of identity would create a significant barrier to EDR and might discourage people from voting. As I blogged last October, the city of Madison, WI ran an experiment that suggested that the combination of voter ID and EDR could result in lines that moved forward at a rate of one to four minutes per person in line.
MinnPost, an online reader-supported news site "whose mission is to provide high-quality journalism for news-intense people who care about Minnesota" (and my first Minnesota stop online every morning) decided to explore EDR's impact. First, they highlighted the key role EDR plays in the ID debate, noting that
Opponents of the amendment say it will make Election Day registration impractical, and posit that a higher percentage of voters who register on Election Day tend to vote Democrat. But Voter ID supporters, including most GOP lawmakers, say the measure is critical to maintaining the state's election integrity. They also dismiss concerns over disenfranchisement.
They then used data to demonstrate the disproportionate use of EDR by voters of the two major parties:
According to our analysis, in precincts with greater than 40 percent same-day registrations, 92 percent of those precincts gave a majority to the DFL in the 2008 presidential race; 8 percent of the precincts went to the GOP. In the 2008 state legislative race, 92 percent of the high-EDR precincts went Democratic, 5 percent went Republican.
Even better, they put it all online in a clickable, searchable map that helps illuminate how much more heavily DFL voters utilize EDR.
To be fair, this map won't settle the debate; ID supporters will likely view it as further proof that vouching-fueled EDR is a problem that proof of identity will solve, while opponents will see it as proof that ID is a thinly-disguised effort to stem the tide of EDR voters who tend to favor one political party.
Still, in a debate that has already featured typical (if amusing) stunts like fraud bounties and outright allegations (as opposed to mere suggestions) of racism, it's nice that someone is bringing some data to the table.
Kudos to MinnPost for bringing a little bit of light to the heated debate of voter ID in Minnesota.