The voter ID question

The Minnesota Senate has passed a bill requiring all Minnesotans to present a photo ID in order to vote.

And a bill was officially introduced in the Minnesota House this week that would add a constitutional question to the ballot asking if people should be required to show a photo ID when voting. The question reads:

Shall the Minnesota Constitution be amended to require that all voters present an approved form of photographic identification prior to voting; all voters be subject to identical eligibility verification standards regardless of the time of their registration; and the state provide at no charge an approved photographic identification to eligible voters?

It’s been one of the more emotional issues over the years pitting Democrats against Republicans.

Republicans claim the bill will reduce the chance of voter fraud, even though there doesn’t appear to be significant incidents of voter fraud in Minnesota. Democrats claim the bill is intended to dampen turnout among the party’s usual constituencies, and there’s at least some evidence to show that’s not a significant problem, either.

The national movement for voter ID gained its momentum from Indiana once the U.S. Supreme Court ruled its 2005 law constitutional — three years ago today, coincidentally.

A 2007 study from Jeffrey Milyo at the University of Missouri found no significant change in voter turnout after it was enacted:

The findings that emerge from my analysis are that photo ID is associated with: i) an overall county-level turnout increase of almost two percentage points, ii) an insignificant increase in relative turnout for counties with a greater percentage of minority and poor population, iii) no consistent or significant impact on relative turnout in counties with a greater percentage of less educated or elderly voters, and iv) a significant relative increase in turnout for counties with a higher percentage of Democrat voters.

The study ran counter to a Rutgers University study of the 2004 election, suggesting voter ID laws suppressed turnout among minority and low-income voters.

In the absence of firm evidence of traditional arguments, much of the debate about voter ID has shifted instead to the cost of implementing the law and providing photo ID to voters who don’t have one already.