Minnesotans who defeated a proposed photo ID amendment to the state Constitution in 2012 may be following a North Carolina voting rights trial with a certain degree of smugness. They may think that democracy-loving Minnesotans wouldn’t stand for the moves that have landed the North Carolina Legislature in federal court, accused of suppressing the African-American vote. We’d like to think so, too. But we must note that while North Carolina lawmakers shaved a week off that state’s early voting period, Minnesota does not permit early voting at all — though it does offer “no excuses” absentee voting, which is more administratively complex and prone to voter error than actual early voting. Minnesota also does not allow preregistration for 16- and 17-year-olds and “out-of-precinct” voting, both of which North Carolina allowed, then dropped in 2013. Minnesota 17-year-olds are allowed to register only if they will be 18 on Election Day.
North Carolina also repealed Election Day registration. That’s a much-used convenience that Minnesota has permitted since 1974. It has served this state well. Yet Election Day registration is still viewed with suspicion — unfounded, we believe — in some Minnesota quarters as a potential source of fraud.
Minnesotans rightfully take pride in their state’s record of comparatively high voter participation. But pride ought not blind Minnesotans to the possibility that this state could do more to encourage voting.