Proponents tell us that the elections amendment on the ballot this November is no big deal because the state will provide a free ID card to anyone currently without one.
A closer look reveals that passage of the amendment would mean much more—with serious consequences for taxpayers in Yellow Medicine County.
As noted by Cass County Auditor-Treasurer Sharon Anderson, “Mailed balloting would no longer be allowed because voters do not vote in person where they can show identification.”
St. Louis County Auditor Don Dicklich echoed those concerns, saying: “It will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars just to build accessible polling locations … unless we are able to ask them to drive a long way to another township that has a polling place. In which case, how many people simply won’t bother to vote?”
Should the amendment pass, counties would be compelled to convert these precincts to in-person voting, requiring the purchase of ballot counters and markers, salaries for election judges and renovations to make facilities accessible to the disabled.
According to a recent analysis by the nonprofit nonpartisan Citizens for Election Integrity-MN, these updates would be required in just two of Yellow Medicine County’s 31 voting precincts, costing local taxpayers an estimated $39,000. Unfortunately, additional costs don’t stop there. When combined with other amendment mandates, the overall price tag could top $140,000.
A study this spring by scholars at the U of M’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs estimated $68.5 million in first-year costs, when state and local expenditures are combined. Individuals currently without ID would kick in another $16 million or more of their own dollars to secure documents, such as birth certificates, necessary to obtain the voter card.
It’s already forecast that Minnesota will face a $1.1 billion deficit in the next two-year budget cycle, which begins July 1 of next year.
It taxes the imagination that some would claim tens of millions more in spending at this time is no big deal. But even more unimaginable will be the additional taxes we’ll continue pay in the future if the amendment passes in November.
Cynthia Moothart is policy director of the League of Rural Voters, a Minnesota-based nonprofit.