Should constitutional amendment pass, new two-step ‘provisional balloting’ system would place geographical travel hurdles in front of many eligible voters
Saint Paul, MN–A report issued by the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits details the round-trip travel distances for Minnesotans to either hav
e their ballot counted or to obtain a voter ID should a constitutional amendment restricting voting pass this November and a complicated new system of provisional balloting go into effect. Distances run the gamut, with many requiring voters to travel seventy miles or more roundtrip to ensure their provisional ballots are certified in the days following an election.
Luchelle Stevens, manager of the Our Vote Our Future campaign which is working to defeat the amendment, said the report reflects significant barriers to voters around the state, especially those in rural areas and seniors in nursing homes. “Eligible voters in Greater Minnesota will have to spend considerable time driving, to present documents to obtain the required ID and then driving again in the days following an election to have their provisional vote certified at their county auditor’s office. It’s a big hassle that will prevent thousands of eligible voters from participating in our democracy and having their voice heard.”
Since the amendment on the November ballot does not include enacting legislation nor spells out critical details such as how provisional balloting would work, or how voters would obtain the free voter ID, the report is based on assumptions derived from the 2011 voter ID elections legislation, SF 509/HF 210, that was vetoed by Governor Dayton.
The Minnesota Council of Nonprofits report
used GIS software to calculate the distances and lists counties alphabetically, from Aitkin to Yellow Medicine, with roundtrip distances itemized for travel to the nearest county auditor or municipal clerk to have their provisional ballot counted or to obtain an ID at one of 114 eligible Department of Vehicle Services (DVS) office sites.
A sampling of distances a voter in a particular municipality would be required to travel to the nearest county auditor or DVS office includes:
County Municipality Round-Trip Travel
Brown Comfrey 69 miles
Cass East Gull Lake 112 miles
Goodhue Kenyon 81 miles
Hennepin St. Bonifacius 56 miles
Kanabec Pomroy 114 miles
Otter Tail New York Mills 100 miles
St. Louis Ely 225 miles
The report also provides an alphabetical listing of nursing homes around the state and the travel distances to county sites from these senior residences. Stevens said the amendment as written fails to safeguard the voting rights of seniors living in these care centers, many who have voted for decades and who do not have the kind of ID the amendment would require voters to carry. And unlike some other states with voter ID laws on the books, the amendment the legislature placed on the November ballot provides no exceptions or provisions for seniors, military voters or veterans.
With just five weeks to go before Election Day, Stevens believes Minnesotans are catching on to the fact that the amendment isn’t as simple as they once thought. “Minnesotans are proud of our elections system here and the more they learn about this costly and complicated amendment the more they’re saying it’s wrong for our state.”