The idea of a photo ID requirement for voters sounds simple and does well in polling, but the fine print of Minnesota’s proposed constitutional amendment suggests that the impact on the state’s election system could be complex and significant. Questions lurk behind the snappy title: What exactly is a “valid government-issued ID”? How will a new system of “provisional voting” work? What is the impact of “substantially equivalent identity and eligibility” standards on the state’s popular system of Election Day registration? None of the questions is unsolvable, and supporters say any changes will be for the good. But the complexity behind the “photo ID” catchphrase creates plenty of room to vigorously debate what the change will mean.
“The appeal is simple, but the implementation is not,” said Doug Chapin, an elections expert at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs. “It’s more than just, we’re showing people an ID,” said Joe Mansky, a veteran of the state’s election system. As Ramsey County elections manager, Mansky refers daily to a thick binder of election law, rules and court rulings built up since statehood. “It’s serious business. What they’re proposing is a substantial change to the way we’re conducting elections.”