In his September 1 editor's column, Local silence on amendment issues troubling, St. Cloud Times editor Randy Krebs asks:
Speaking of laws, everyone knows that if the Voter ID amendment passes it is going to require more tax dollars as well as more local resources to conduct elections. Do local elected officials honestly think their state-level peers will pay those bills? Have they not watched how state aid to cities, higher education and other areas has dried up in recent sessions? Amid that trend, it’s obvious local jurisdictions have a huge interest in the outcome.So again, as leaders of the community, at least go public with a position. Silence isn’t leadership, at least not in this election.
It's a good point: the Republican caucuses now controlling the Minnesota legislature have been aggressive in cutting Local Government Aid for greater Minnesota.
In DLOnline, the Detroit Lakes daily's online venue, staff writer Nathan Bowe reports a bit about the amendment's costs in ‘Voter ID’ will mean provisional ballots,* citing the head of the Association of Minnesota Counties:
Get your wallets out
If the Voter ID amendment passes, Minnesota can expect to spend millions of dollars providing free identification cards to thousands of residents and educating residents on the state’s new voting requirements, according to Association of Minnesota Counties President Randy Maluchnik.
The provisional balloting requirements alone will cost Ramsey County an estimated $150,000 every two years, said Maluchnik, who is also a Carver County commissioner.
“Minnesota’s townships expect to spend upwards of $3 million statewide to implement provisional voting during their March elections,” he wrote. Local property tax payers will foot the bill if the state makes it an unfunded mandate.
The provisional balloting process will “require local governments to print special ballots, purchase new equipment, hire and train additional election judges, provide special business hours to allow provisional voters to prove their identity, and pay for storage and security of provisional ballots,” Maluchnik said.
Turns out there’s a lot more to the Voter ID amendment than just showing your driver’s license at the polling place.
If the state legislature funds the mandate, where will the budget be cut to pay for this? If lawmakers don't fund it, where will cash-strapped counties and townships get the money? Will revenue have to increase? And why raise taxes to "solve" suspicions of fraud, when local government faces other well-documented problems, like fixing infrastructure? In some ways, the voter restriction amendment seems like a two-fer for the Republican Party: disenfranchise a pool of voters less likely to vote for its candidates, while starving local government. Lovely.
Photo: Provisional balloting in Ohio. Because we so want to pay more to have those sort of lines in Minnesota. Via the Toledo Blade.
*The DLOnline article seems to have overstated the number of mail-in ballots. Earlier figures from the MNSOS's office noted that 200,000 Minnesotans cast mail-in and absentee ballots during presidential election years, not the higher number just for mail-in ballots. See James Nord's excellent Voter ID plan raises many practical questions from March 5, 2012 in Minnpost.