Amendments 101: The Voter ID and Marriage Amendments

12:01 PM, Nov 8, 2012   |    comments
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GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. - On Tuesday, voters will go to the polls to vote on everything from the president to two proposed amendments to the Minnesota constitution.

After months of receiving questions about those amendments, KARE 11 decided to answer several specific questions about what the amendments mean. You could call it: Constitutional Amendments 101.

The Marriage Amendment:

What will the question look like on the ballot?

The exact wording on the ballot is: "Shall the Minnesota constitution be amended to provide that only a union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Minnesota?"
What does that mean?

A "yes" vote means that you're voting to put the definition of marriage between one man and one woman in the state constitution.

A "no" vote means you're voting to keep it out of the constitution.
But there's an important catch. Gay marriage will remain illegal in the state of Minnesota even if the amendment fails. Supporters of the amendment contend that judges or lawmakers could undo that ban unless it's in the constitution.

Will my church be required to marry same-sex couples, if down the road, gay marriage is eventually legalized in Minnesota?

No. The First Amendment provides for religious freedom. No religion would be required to marry same-sex couples or recognize gay marriages, just as some churches currently don't recognize divorce in some cases.

If I don't vote on the amendment, am I, in fact, voting "no?"

Yes, that's true. Under the Minnesota constitution, in order for an amendment to pass, a majority of all those voting must vote for it. That means if you have a total of 20 voters and 9 vote for the amendment, 7 vote against and 4 not at all, the amendment still fails. In that case, you'd need 11 votes -- a simple majority -- for the amendment to succeed.

If gay marriage were eventually legalized, would teachers be required to teach about gay marriage in Minnesota schools?

The Minnesota Department of Education says districts develop their own curriculum in the state, but the state encourages national standards on health education for districts to use in devising their own standards.

In at least one other state that has legalized gay marriage, Massachusetts, schools have incorporated images of different models of families -- including same-sex couples and their children.

But there's an important catch: those images were part of a diversity curriculum, established well before the legalization of gay marriage in Massachusetts.

The Voter ID Amendment:

How will voting change if the Voter ID amendment goes into the constitution?

Beginning July 1, 2013 you'll have to present a government-issued photo ID at the polling place before you're handed a ballot.

What if I don't bring an ID, or don't have one?

You'll be issued a provisional ballot. That ballot won't be counted until you return with a valid ID. The amendment doesn't say how much time you'll have to do that.  In Minnesota county canvassing board review final tallies between three and 10 days after the election, before submitting them to the state for final certification.


What types of IDs will be accepted?

The amendment does not specify that. Backers say driver's licenses, state-ID cards and military ID, and student IDs from state colleges would be accepted, but that's NOT spelled out in the amendment. The amendment says the government will be required to issue free IDs to eligible voters.


Does my ID have to show my current address?

The amendment doesn't say. The original Voter ID bill said your ID must show your current address, to prove you still live in the precinct where you're registered. But this version of the bill doesn't talk about addresses.


If I just moved here, and don't have a Minnesota ID yet, can a neighbor vouch for me?

That's possible in the current law, for those who have some proof of residence, such as a utility bill, but haven't received a Minnesota ID yet.  In the case of long-term care homes a staff member can sign a statement vouching for your current address.  But vouching would not be allowed in the new system.


Will you still be able to register on Election Day?

The amendment does not address same-day registration. But those who register on Election Day currently can provide a variety of documents. In the new system only government photo IDs will be accepted for those who register on Election Day. Those same-day registrants lacking such documents will be allowed to cast only provisional ballots.


How do you show ID if you're voting absentee?

The amendment says absentee voters will be subject to "substantially equivalent identification and eligibility verification" as those who vote in person.  The amendment doesn't explain how that will work. Currently absentee voters write their drivers license numbers on the form, but that is not the same as showing a photo ID.


How will the unknowns be settled?

The 2013 legislature will be asked to pass a bill that fills in the blanks and helps voters and those who run elections understand the new system. But backers also say the amendment will be self-enacting, meaning photo ID will be required even if that bill is never passed.


How much will Voter ID cost the taxpayers?

The estimates range from $1 million to $50 million.  The Republican Party test run on the night of the GOP Caucuses featured electronic card swiping devices and computers that recorded their information. That type of equipment doesn't exist at the 4,130 polling places in Minnesota.

If the computers are to be connected to a central system, there would be more technology costs. A large number of local elections officials who answered a survey from the Association of Minnesota Counties also said they anticipated added staffing costs to sort our regular voters from provisional voters.

But backers of the amendment say there's no need any new equipment or staffing just to check people's IDs against a paper voter roster. They say the only cost will be free IDs for those who request them.

Why are some people opposed to it?

There are 84,000 legally registered voters in Minnesota who no longer have valid, current ID. Opponents worry many will be unable to find the base documents -- birth certificates, marriage licenses and social security cards -- they need to get new IDs.  They predict frail elderly, college students and poor people who change address more often will be tripped up by the new rules and lose their right to vote.


Why is this on the ballot?

Backers say this is necessary to guard against voter fraud. They say the current system is designed to catch violators after their vote has been counted, and this will catch people before their votes are counted. Opponents cite the fact that there no cases of people being prosecuted in Minnesota for voter impersonation or double voting.  Roughly 200 released felons were prosecuted for voting illegally in 2008 because their probation hadn't ended yet. But those former offenders used their real IDs.


What will we see on the ballot?

Shall the Minnesota Constitution be amended to require all voters to present valid photo identification to vote and to require the state to provide free identification to eligible voters, effective July 1, 2013?

What words will be added to the State Constitution?

All voters voting in person must present valid government-issued photographic identification before receiving a ballot. The state must issue photographic identification at no charge to an eligible voter who does not have a form of identification meeting the requirements of this section. A voter unable to present government-issued photographic identification must be permitted to submit a provisional ballot. A provisional ballot must only be counted if the voter certifies the provisional ballot in the manner provided by law.

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.

(Copyright 2012 by KARE. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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