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Photo ID at the polls aid accuracy, integrity

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opinion Bemidji, 56619
Bemidji Pioneer
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Bemidji Minnesota P.O. Box 455 56619

Instituting a photo ID requirement for accessing a ballot in Minnesota is an obviously needed election reform. In poll after poll, the overwhelm-ing majority of people support this measure, including 78 percent of people polled by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press in 2006 and 75 percent of people polled at the Minnesota State Fair by the state Legislature in 2001.

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Furthermore, support for this measure is bipartisan: In the Pew poll, 71 percent of Democrats, 77 percent of Independents, and 86 percent of Republicans supported this measure.

I believe election fraud is probably rare in Minnesota. Yet my belief is not enough. Whether fraud is rare or commonplace in our state is, in fact, unknowable. It is highly suspicious that liberals resist injecting this modest measure of integrity into our election system. It is especially suspicious that they are reluctant to alter our state's system of allowing people to register by showing up at the polls with no proof of identity or residence at all and using only another person to vouch for them.

Most Minnesotans are una-ware that the vouching sys-tem does not even require that the people doing the vouching actually know the identity of the persons for whom they are vouching; the system requires the people doing the vouching to attest only to the registrant's residence in the precinct.

In Minnesota, we are lagging behind other states because of our antiquated laws against requiring photo ID for gaining access to a ballot.

Ballot access should have the same degree of integrity and accuracy that ballot counting does. A simple count is not enough to prove that integrity and accuracy exist in the ballot counting system, so we have a recount procedure to prove it. Similarly, there should be safeguards in the system to prove that there is integrity and accuracy in our ballot access procedures. Indeed, the accuracy and integrity of the count and recount pro-cedures are valid only if the first step in the process -- distributing ballots -- has ac-curacy and integrity, as well.

Yet photo ID is needed not only for the reason of injecting additional integrity into our election system but also for the purpose of allowing election processes to be streamlined and modernized.

Election technology now exists, and is being used in other states, that allows for swift and accurate election registration, Election Day check-in, and post-election administration. Such technology relies on interface with driver's license or state-issued photo ID. (Some of this technology is even made by Minnesota-based companies; see, for example, http://www.datacard.com/). It is similar to technology that Minnesotans are accustomed to seeing when they go to purchase fishing and hunting licenses. Just as card readers have eliminated the need for bait shop clerks to write out paper fishing licenses, a card reader installed at a polling place could be employed in voter registration and check-in on Election Day.

A quick swipe of a photo ID through a card reader could fill in the data fields in the state's voter registration system, thereby eliminating common data-entry mistakes that take place with the current pen-and-paper registration system. A quick swipe of such ID at the sign-in table in the polling place on Election Day would eliminate the need to line up by parts of the alphabet, would conserve thousands of pounds of paper currently used to print voter rosters in every election, and would greatly speed up the lines in the polling places.

It would also eliminate the need for post-Election Day data entry of voter participation history, which after the 2008 election took several months and cost county governments tens of thousands of dollars to complete.

Opponents of election integrity often say that having to produce a photo ID at the polls constitutes an unbearable burden. Certainly Minnesota lawmakers are clever enough to find ways to eliminate potential barriers that an exceedingly small percentage of citizens who want to vote might have in producing a photo ID.

This is just one of 15 election reform recommendations contained in a new report entitled "No Longer a National Model" published by Center of the American Experiment, a Minneapolis-based think tank. The report is available online: www.americanexper-iment.org.

Kent Kaiser is an assistant professor of communication at Northwestern College in Roseville, and a senior fellow at Center of the American Experiment. Kaiser previous-ly served in the administra-tions of Secretary of State Mary Kiffmeyer, a Republi-can, and Mark Ritchie, a DFLer.

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Pioneer staff reports
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