Freeze frame of Our Vote Our Future ad "Alex"
ST. PAUL, Minn. - Supporters of the voter photo ID ballot question filed a formal complaint Wednesday against the opposition campaign, challenging the truthfulness of a TV ad describing how military voting would be affected by the amendment.
In the ad, produced by Our Vote Our Future, Iraq War veteran Alex Erickson of Minneapolis tells the audience that lawmakers made a mistake. He says the amendment doesn't consider military ID a valid form of identification in the new system.
"Military ID is currently accepted in our election system for identification purposes for voters," Dan McGrath, who heads the Protect My Vote campaign in favor of the amendment, told Capitol reporters.
"Since the amendment doesn't invalidate that, there's no reason to believe that would change. It can't change."
His group lodged a complaint with the Minnesota Office of Administrative Hearings, the first stop in campaign advertising disputes. The campaign also sent letters to metro area TV stations asking them not to air the ad, reminding them it's a violation of law to knowingly air false ads.
McGrath said the term "government-issued" photo identification in the amendment is broad enough to include a variety of forms of photo ID, including those issued by the federal government.
"The language in the amendment was very carefully selected to make sure to be very inclusive of those things," he remarked.
"Military identification is government issued. It has a photograph on it. It comports to the requirements of the amendment."
No specific language
The ballot question and the text of the constitutional amendment does not specify which types of government ID's will be accepted. The measure makes no hardship exceptions for special populations, such as frail elderly, those with physical disabilities or military members serving out of state.
"Unlike many other states, including Alabama, including Kansas, there were no provisions put into this provision put into this amendment that would protect the voting rights of active duty military, or other groups," Greta Bergstrom of Our Vote Our Future told KARE.
She said the campaign stands behind the Erickson TV spot because of all the unanswered questions about how the new system will actually work, should voters approve the ballot question.
Currently those who vote absentee overseas write their drivers license numbers or military ID numbers on the ballot application form, but do not provide a copy of photo ID.
They self-verify their residency, their eligibility to vote in a particular home precinct, by signing an affirmation on the bottom of the form attesting that all the information they've given is true.
"If that feature goes away, if people in the military can no longer vouch for themselves when it comes to their address, it would really provide a significant hurdle to voting," Bergstrom asserted.
Opponents of the amendment say the language suggests that all absentee voters, including military, will fall under a stricter standard.
The proposed amendment reads, "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."
Bergstrom said it's not clear that merely writing a military I-D number down on the absentee form will be viewed by elections judges as sufficient in the new system, compared to other voters who are presenting actual ID cards in person.
McGrath said the opposition's attempt to warn voters of unintended consequences is nothing more than speculation, because lawmakers will still pass an enabling law in 2013 that will fill in the blanks for citizens and elections workers.
"The intended consequence is treating all voters the same, as much as possible, using different processes," McGrath told reporters.
"The word 'substantially' means mostly. 'Equivalent' means equal. It doesn't mean identical."
Voter Address Issue
If the amendment passes those who register for the first time on Election Day, or pre-registered voters who don't bring valid ID, will be allowed to cast provisional ballots. Those ballots won't be counted, backers say, until the person's identity is verified in the days following the election.
The two sides are also split on the issue of how voters addresses will be verified if Voter Photo ID becomes the law. Opponents maintain that for ID to be valid in the new system it will have to reflect the voter's current address.
In that scenario, if voters are already registered the address on their ID card will have to match the address on the precinct roster at the polling place. Otherwise their ballot will be placed in the provisional stack until poll workers can verify their place of residence.
McGrath disagrees with that line of reasoning, pointing out that there's no mention of addresses in the amendment or the question on the ballot. He said elections workers who check ID's will be looking to see if the face matches the voter, not the address.
But the original version of the voter ID bill, vetoed by Governor Mark Dayton, did specify that address must be current on ID's. One passage reads:
"The following are sufficient proof of identity and residence for purposes of election day voter registration: A current driver's license, state identification card, or voter identification card issued to the voter by the Department of Public Safety that contains the voter's current address of residence in the precinct."
That vetoed legislation was penned by the same lawmakers who eventually passed the amendment. And so opponents suggest that language of will most likely be used when lawmakers write their enabling legislation in 2013.
But McGrath says it's not fair to make that assumption.
"They're inventing possible future legislation in their own minds and then portraying it as fact," McGrath complained.
(Copyright 2012 by KARE. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)