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Advocate for the disabled says voter ID would create barriers

October 19, 2012
By Per Peterson , Marshall Independent

MARSHALL - Voter ID has become a love-it-or-leave-it issue in Minnesota. And a political one, too.

Most Republicans say it would address voter fraud issues in the state. Democrats say there are no voter fraud issues, that this is a solution to a problem that doesn't exist.

Then there are the groups in-between - organizations like the Arc of Minnesota that believes stricter voting requirements, as proposed in a Constitutional amendment, will deal a significant blow to qualified voters who are disabled.

"We're very concerned this amendment will create barriers for them to vote," said The Arc of Minnesota Communications Director Mike Gude. "We've estimated there are 27,000 people with disabilities who will not have the proper ID to vote if the amendment passes as is."

The Arc of Minnesota is a private, non-profit group that works to protect the rights of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Gude said the Arc's stance has nothing to do with politics.

"It doesn't matter who you support as far as political parties go, our concern is people with disabilities having the access to the voting booth," Gude said. "Whether they vote Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, Green, that's their decision, and they should be able to have as easy access to the ballot as anyone. It's not a partisan issue, it's a voter's rights issue."

Voter ID has been an issue in St. Paul dating back to 2011 when the Legislature passed a bill to require every voter to present a photo ID when going to the ballot. After Gov. Mark Dayton vetoed the bill, supporters of the measure passed a bill in the 2012 session to amend the Constitution to make changes to Minnesota's voting system, including requiring voters have a specific ID to vote.

Because it was a proposed constitutional amendment, Dayton didn't have the authority to veto the 2102 bill.

The Minnesota Supreme Court in August dismissed a lawsuit that challenged the amendment because its language was confusing and did not explain to voters all the changes that would come with the amendment.

Cost is an issue as well, Gude said. The Arc says implementing a new voting system would result in potentially higher property taxes and cuts to core services in cities and counties.

Citing the League of Women Voters Minnesota, The Arc said along with the 10 percent of voters with disabilities who do not have the ID the amendment would require, for those looking to get it, attaining the proper ID could impose costs on people with disabilities, including travel to a county or state office to get it. The Arc said the amendment, if passed, would restrict people's right to vote and that people should not have to pay to ensure their basic right to vote. And even if they do receive a free ID, Gude said, just getting to where they can pick one up can be a hassle.

"Up in Finland, Minnesota, they're 86 miles away from the nearest place where they can get a proper ID," said Gude. "These are the kind of barriers we're really concerned about. One of the parts of our mission is to protect the rights of people with disabilities, and that includes having a voice in who their elected officials are. There are transportation barriers, especially in rural areas."

The Arc has other issues, too, such as how the amendment would make voting more complicated and that the amendment is poorly written and raises unanswered questions.



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