Another local election official in rural Minnesota is speaking up about the unfunded mandate that passage of the photo ID amendment. The North Star News in Karlstad, MN reports in Passing Voter ID could cost county $730,000:
Passing the proposed Amendment to the Minnesota Constitution that would require all persons voting to present a valid photo ID has not found favor with the person responsible for orchestrating the elections in Kittson County.
That task falls on the shoulders of Kittson County Auditor-Treasurer Marilyn Gustafson, who says, if passed, the amendment will not only change the face of voting in the county, but will be excessively expensive to the county's residents.
The wording of the amendment would do away with the mail-in ballot that has been used in recent elections in the county, and those residents who have been able to use mail-in voting would once again be required to make an appearance at their voting precinct. Gustafson said there are 37 voter precincts in Kittson County, of which all but three cast their ballot by mail. Voters in Hallock, Karlstad and Springbrook Township continue to vote in person at their precinct.
Where does the $730,000 figure come from? North Star News reports that of the 34 precincts in the county, 13 townships don't have halls; Gustafson thinks it will cost between $25,000 to $40,000 to build township halls for those precincts. Moreover, another 17 town halls would need to be upgraded to accommodate handicapped voters at 8,000-10,000 per building.
Gustafson estimates that 27 new ballot counters would cost $138,645 and 33 new auto marks at a cost of $157,470, as well as stipends for additional election judges.
While amendment proponents claim that these costs won't be necessary, the paper reports that Gustafson believes that the wording of the amendment "(c) All voters, including those not voting in person, must be subject to substantially equivalent identity and eligibility verification prior to a ballot being cast or counted" doesn't allow exceptions.
She has a point. Why should voters in Kittson County get special treatment over those in Owatonna or Duluth?
There aren't a lot of voters in Kittson County, located in the extreme northwestern corner of Minnesota; the 2010 Census found 4,552 people living in the county. Adoption of the voter restriction amendment would be expensive for Kittson County residents, and it wouldn't fix the problem of felons voting the amendment proponents point to when they're asked to provide evidence of fraud. Former Governor Pawlenty vetoed legislation that would have dealt with that, without impeding the ability of all law-abiding citizens to vote.
Want to learn more? Tomorrow, September 2, 1:00 p.m., at the DFL Pavilion, Dan Patch Avenue and Cooper Street at the Minnesota State Fair, Minnesota Farmers Union President and former state representative Doug Peterson (DFL- Lac Qui Parle) with be on a panel with SEIU Local 26 President Javier Morillo-Alicea and Operation Iraqi Freedom combat veteran Alex Erickson.A press release from the Our Vote, Our Future coalition notes:
The Voter Restriction Amendment is an expensive, unnecessary and extreme overhaul of Minnesota’s election system; creating an unfunded mandate for local governments; ending Election Day registration and placing hurdles before eligible Minnesota voters.
According the Kittson County's chief election official, that unfunded mandate is indeed expensive for people in that corner of Minnesota. Bluestem bets Peterson knows of other rural Minnesotans who will pay for an unburden.
Image: Kittson County.