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Bench & Bar of Minnesota is the official publication of the Minnesota State Bar Association.

Debating Voter ID: Voter Fraud & the Impact of Voter ID

The stated motivation for the placement of the proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot by the legislature this fall is to reduce the incidence of voter fraud in Minnesota, particularly identity fraud. A second stated motivation of the author of the amendment is to eliminate the practice of vouching for voters who want to register to vote on Election Day but lack documentary proof of residence. Here are some statistics from the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office and the Ramsey County Elections Office covering the period 2006-2011 that bear on these objectives and that illustrate the likely impact on voters of the adoption of the amendment:

  • 1,549 election related referrals (alleged violations) were submitted to the county attorney’s office between 2006 and 2011. Of those referrals, 1,426 (92%) were either declined by a charging attorney or found to lack the probable cause necessary to forward to a charging attorney for decision.
  • Of the 123 referrals resulting in charges, 20 involved felons under supervision who registered to vote but did not vote; 102 involved felons under supervision who both registered and voted; and one referral was for registration and voting by a person not a U.S. citizen. No voters were charged with identity fraud during this period.
  • Of the 123 persons charged, 114 were found guilty or admitted their guilt. Nine of the cases were dismissed.
  • During the same time period, the total number of persons voting in an election in Ramsey County was 1,039,890. The number of convictions for voter fraud during this period constitutes one-hundredth of one percent (0.0001) of the total voting during the six-year period.
  • Of the 2,410 voters who used a voucher (a registered voter who resides in the same precinct as the election day registrant and has personal knowledge of the registrant’s residence) to register to vote on election day in 2010, 76 percent used a voucher who resided at the same address as the voter; 5 percent used a voucher who resided on the same street but at a different address; 6 percent were residents of a nursing home or other residential facility and used an employee of the facility as their voucher, and 9 percent of the voters used a voucher from another address in the precinct. No data was reported by the election judges for the remaining 4 percent of the voters.
  • Based on a matching of state driver’s license and state identification card records with the list of registered voters as of January 2012, 24,738 voters who are currently registered to vote in Ramsey County do not have either a valid Minnesota driver’s license or a valid state identification card. This is 9 percent of the total number of registered voters in Ramsey County.
  • At the 2008 state general election in Ramsey County, 5,777 voters who were not previously registered at their current residence used a voucher to register at the polling place and vote. These voters lacked a government-issued document that would be required by the proposed amendment. This was 2 percent of the total number of persons voting at that election.

Joseph Mansky has been the Ramsey County elections manager since 2002. Prior to coming to Ramsey County, he was the manager of Governor Jesse Ventura’s redistricting commission. He was a staff member for the Minnesota Secretary of State from 1984 to 1999, serving the last 11 years as state election director. Mansky currently serves on the Governor’s Task Force on Election Integrity and is a member of the Pew Foundation Committee on Election Performance Measurement. 

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