Minnesota Nonprofits Say Photo ID Bill Requirements Too Restrictive, Arbitrary

St. Paul, Minn., May 3, 2011 -- On Tuesday morning, representatives of over twenty non-profit organizations, many of them members of Minnesota’s Voting Rights Coalition, held a State Office  Building press briefing calling photo ID requirements contained in SF 509 and HF 210  “too restrictive and arbitrary to protect the voting rights of Minnesotans.”

Susie Brown, public policy director of the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits, said nonprofits across the state are aghast by the overly restrictive new elections system that would be put in place should these bills become law. “Minnesota’s nonprofits serve many of those already on the margins, fighting to be heard. The new rules in these bills would create a slew of serious barriers for too many of our clients who don’t deserve to have their right to vote arbitrarily taken away from them.”

Brown believes most people in Minnesota don’t understand the implications of the new system contained in the voter ID bills. While she said she can see how many might think flashing a photo ID when they show up to vote is easy enough, she believes that “when people understand what’s actually in these bills, and how it affects them personally, it becomes common sense to oppose them.”

Some of these provisions include:

  • All currently registered voters, and absentee voters, needing to produce a photo ID regardless of past registered voting experience
  • The need to produce a photo ID first in order to obtain one of only three valid voter IDs
  • The inability to use a U.S. passport along with a utility bill or other document proving residency
  • The inability to use an expired driver’s license, which many seniors currently depend on
  • The new voter IDs would not be valid for any purpose other than voting

Also on hand were several individuals, representing seniors, veterans, students, and middle-class voters, whose right to vote would be jeopardized if a photo ID requirement became law. One of them, 94 year-old Mary Lou Hill of Minneapolis, was born four years before women were given the right to vote. “I believe the right to vote is among our most important rights,” Hill stated. “But these bills will take the vote away from thousands of elderly citizens who have been proudly casting their ballots for fifty or sixty or even seventy years.”

R.J. Moyer, a disabled U.S. Army veteran who is currently without a permanent address, also does not have one of the state-issued photo IDs that would be required to vote.  What he does have, however, is a veteran’s photo identification card issued by the Department of Veterans Affairs. But Moyer said “my veteran’s ID wouldn’t be valid under the new system, even with proof of my current residency. Under this new system, there would be no way for me to cast a ballot, and that’s simply wrong.”

The Voting Rights Coalition (VRC) works in a nonpartisan way to increase access to our democracy and to remove barriers to voting and civic participation, particularly among communities that have been traditionally under-represented in the democratic process. The VRC promotes the full engagement of all Minnesotans in the political process
through organizing, advocacy, education and training.

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The Minnesota Council of Nonprofits (MCN) is the statewide association of 2,000 nonprofit organizations. Through its website, resource publications, workshops and events, cost-saving programs and advocacy, MCN continually works to inform, promote, connect and strengthen individual nonprofits and the nonprofit sector.

www.minnesotanonprofits.org

 
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