Frequently Asked Questions

How’s this Thing Gonna Work?

How much will Voter ID cost and who pays? Will My property taxes go up?

Researchers in the legislature estimated the Voter ID amendment will cost the state of Minnesota between $10 and $12 million initially and $2-3 million per election cycle thereafter (about 66 cents for each Minnesota taxpayer, per year for the first 4 years). Funding for state-issued photo ID’s that will be provided to voters who need them at no charge will come from the state general fund. Local and county governments are not expected to bear any costs associated with providing ID cards.

Depending on the final enacting legislation, there could be additional start-up costs, such as the purchase of electronic pollbook computers and software. The cost to the state could be as much as $40 million, which may seem like a lot, but compared to the tremendous amount we already spend on elections, or the cost of 7 miles of light rail track ($1 billion), implementing Voter ID is still a bargain.

Although some have suggested that each precinct will need to hire two additional election judges to deal with the newly enacted provisional ballot system, the suggestion is positively ludicrous. Indiana, which has a strict photo ID law and a similar voting population to Minnesota had fewer than 4,000 provisional ballots cast in the 2008 election. Applying a similar figure to Minnesota, where there are just over 4,000 voting precincts, we can expect an average of less than 1 provisional ballot being cast per precinct. It would take bureaucratic inefficiency and incompetence on a colossal scale to require two judges working 14 hours each to handle one provisional ballot or less.

In short, no. Your property taxes won’t go up – well, actually, they probably will go up, but not because of Voter ID!

What kinds of ID will be accepted? Do I need to get a new ID?

The amendment requires voters to present “government-issued” photographic identification. This is broad language and it was written that way to allow for tribal and military ID, passports and to provide the legislature some flexibility to adapt to changing identification types.

At a minimum, a drivers license or non-driving state ID card will be accepted for voting purposes. Tribal ID’s have been established as acceptable by court rulings and must be permitted. Other ID’s may be included as the legislature deems in the enacting statutes. They will likely include military IDs and passports. They likely won’t include any kind of student/college ID cards.

If you already have a valid drivers license or state ID card, you won’t need to get any additional ID to vote. If a new type of ID is created specifically for voting, it would only be used by those who lack other government-issued ID, like a drivers license.

What if my photo ID doesn’t have my current address on it?

State law requires you to update your drivers license or state ID card within 90 days of taking up a new residence, but if you are inside that time period, or have other reasons for not updating your ID, you’ll be able to use your photo ID along with some other proof of your residence in the precinct under current statutes. The Voter ID amendment deals with identity and eligibility, but is silent on residence, leaving it to current and/or future statutes.

In other words, if your drivers license has an old address on it, you’ll still be able to use it to vote as long as you can also bring a utility bill, lease agreement, pay stub, or other evidence of your new address.

Can I use an out-of-state drivers license or ID card?

The Voter ID amendment does not prohibit the use of IDs from other states. Identity can be established with an out-of-state license providing you can also document your residence in the precinct you are voting in under the current statutes (a pay stub with your current address or a recent utility bill, for example).

How do I get a free state-issued photo ID?

The Voter ID Constitutional amendment requires the state to provide photo identification to eligible voters at no charge. The exact nature of that ID will be left to the next legislature, convening in 2013, but there are only a couple likely possibilities.

The state will either make all non-driving photographic identification available at no charge to eligible voters, or the state may create a new kind of voting identification that will be provided at no charge on request.

If ratified, the constitutional amendment will not take effect until July 1st of 2013. Free ID will not be available until then.

The free photographic identification required by the amendment will be available anywhere people currently apply for drivers licenses or non-driving state ID cards.

What about people who don’t have ID or birth certificates? How will they get identification to vote with?

No eligible voter will be unable to get identification, even if they have extraordinary circumstances. The Department of Public Safety already has procedures in place to deal with unusual situations. A citizen who was born outside a hospital, and who was never issued a birth certificate, for example, can complete a legal variance process with the DPS to obtain valid identification. There’s an extra hoop to jump through so the DPS can prevent issuing fraudulent identification cards, but the one-page form is hardly insurmountable.

Every eligible voter, no matter their circumstance will be able to obtain valid ID.

What if I have a religious objection to being photographed?

Federal courts have already established overriding case law for religious freedom exemptions from laws requiring the picture of a person objecting to being photographed for religious reasons. The federal case law takes precedence over state law and the Minnesota Constitution. There is already a process in place to obtain state-issued photo ID without having to display a photograph. See the application from the Department of Public Safety.

How can I show an ID when casting an absentee ballot?

The Voter ID amendment deals with in-person voters and absentee or mail-in voters seperately. In-person voters must show their photo ID. Absentee voters must be subject to “substantially equivalent” identity verification through a different process that produces similar results. The details are left to the next legislature, but there are two obvious options that have been employed in other states.

1. Provide your ID card number on the absentee ballot envelope. Election workers will verify the ID number belongs to the voter using DPS and voter registration records.

2. Provide a photocopy of your ID card with your absentee ballot. The ID will be verified by election workers as valid, and belonging to the voter.

Absentee ballots already require an ID number on the envelope. The only likely change is that the checkbox stating that the voter doesn’t have an ID number will be removed from the envelope. The ID number will be required of all absentee voters.

What are provisional ballots? How do they work?

Provisional ballots are special ballots used for voters whose identity can not be established by judges on Election Day. They work similarly to absentee ballots, being placed into a privacy envelope and an outer envelope with the voter’s information on it.

Voters who lack photo ID on Election Day will be provided a provisional ballot.

Provisional ballots are set aside from the other ballots and are only opened and counted once the voter provides identification or other evidence of their identity, typically within 7-10 days after an election.

Provisional ballots are required by federal law, with exceptions made for states with unusual election systems, like Minnesota’s combination of Election Day Registration and vouching, or North Dakota’s system that doesn’t require voter registration at all. 44 other states effectively use provisional ballots. Minnesota is one of only 6 states that doesn’t include this measure to protect voters from fraud and disenfranchisement.

Minnesota’s current election system often turns voters away from the polls without a chance to cast a ballot. New voters who lack identification, don’t have a current utility bill in their name or who don’t know or can’t find a neighbor who can vouch for them are turned away without voting. Provisional ballots will ensure that everyone has a chance to cast a ballot on Election Day.

Will provisional ballots delay reporting of election results?

Absolutely not. Provisional ballots will only be used by voters who lack proper ID on Election Day. Very few of them will be cast in any given election. Indiana has a similar voting population and a strict Voter ID law. In 2008, fewer than 4,000 provisional ballots were cast in Indiana. If election results are close enough for 4,000 ballots cast statewide to make a difference, Minnesota’s current election laws would trigger an automatic recount, which would already be delaying final election results for longer than the window to validate and count provisional ballots.

How can the state verify eligibility of Election Day registrants?

Common technology can be brought into polling places to allow election judges to instantly compare a new voter’s registration information to existing databases that are already in use for voters who register at least 20 days before an election. These databases allow officials to check citizenship status and verify the voter isn’t ineligible to vote because of a felony conviction or court guardianship orders that rescind a ward’s right to vote due to mental incompetence.

Alternately, the information from databases used to determine if a person is ineligible to vote can be compiled into one list and printed for each polling place to be checked by election judges when registering someone on Election Day.