A party-line debate and party-line vote in the Legislature is likely to result in a major change in Minnesota voting rules, but the actual consequences remain in dispute. Democrats predict dire consequences — high costs, new restrictions that will discourage voting by certain groups, an end to Minnesota’s tradition of same-day registration — if voters approve the amendment as expected on Nov. 6. Republicans, who control the Legislature and put the issue on the general election ballot, say Democratic warnings are wildly overblown. The new requirement that voters show a government-issued ID before casting a ballot will boost confidence in elections while not substantially curtailing the right to vote, supporters of the law say. For the people who run local elections, though, the issue goes much beyond the standard partisan debate.
“They are not understanding, I don’t think, what they are putting into law,” said Blue Earth County Elections Director Patty O’Connor. A strict reading of the legislation passed last week leaves serious questions about whether some Minnesota soldiers serving overseas will be able cast an absentee ballot, O’Connor said. The traditional route to casting a ballot by most nursing home residents could disappear. Same-day registration, which has helped Minnesota lead the nation in voter turnout, may be in question without a large investment in new equipment at every precinct in the state. “It’s going to be a whole new ball game,” O’Connor said.