This November, Minnesota residents will be asked to decide whether voters should be required to present valid, government-issued photographic proof of identity prior to casting a ballot. While it is not the job of local election officials to determine whether this concept is valid, it is the responsibility of all local units of government, ranging from the smallest township to the largest county, to be properly prepared to administer elections in compliance with all applicable laws. In order to be fully prepared for the implementation of the proposed amendment, the Greater Minnesota Advisory Panel (GMAP), a voluntary association of representatives of rural townships, cities, counties, and school districts seeking to work with both the legislative and executive branches of the state government on rural concerns), believes it is important that local officials and voters understand the details and potential impact of what they are being asked to approve, and how local governments must prepare now even though the amendment has not yet been approved nor enabling legislation enacted.
If adopted, the amendment would require changes to how all elections conducted in the state are administered, including:
• In-person voters would need to present a valid, government-issued photographic identification to receive a ballot;
• All voters, whether voting in person, casting an absentee ballot, or voting by mail ballot would be required to provide some sort of substantially equivalent proof of identification and eligibility prior to casting a ballot or having their ballot counted;
• In-person voters unable to provide photographic identification would need to vote using a new type of ballot known as a provisional ballot. Such voters would then need to provide the proper form of identification during some period of time after the election before their ballot could be counted.
If the amendment is adopted, enabling legislation would still be needed to implemented and thus it is not possible to know exactly how the proposed amendment will impact local governments. However, as representatives of rural Minnesota, GMAP has concerns about how the proposed amendment could impact the election process in rural areas.