Harry's Gang: Voter ID is intrusion, plain and simple, by government


February 26, 2021

There's talk in the Minnesota Legislature to bring back the "voter ID" issue. The problem with voter ID is that the logic behind it is backward - that since we need an ID to write a check or buy liquor, we should thus require an ID to exercise the most basic right in a democracy - voting. That logic is backward because the government has intruded on our lives so much that we shouldn't allow them to intrude on our most basic right in a democracy - voting.

We should not need an ID to buy liquor and tobacco. Those items are not such a privilege that we must prove our age to the government before buying them. Sure, I agree we should restrict such sales to those old enough to use them, responsibly or not. But requiring an obviously 35-year-old man to show his ID before buying beer for the weekend is an infringement upon our rights. It's an unreasonable search.

It's similar to requiring an ID to write a check. I've been in retail business for a long time - verifying that someone has the same name as the person on the check does little to prove the check is good. And there are much better ways to identify stolen checks than requiring an ID. Here's one of them: I say if you want to know if a check is good, ask to see the checkbook ledger balance. Then you'll know how much money is in the account.

I tried that technique years ago at my brother-in-law's tavern and motel in Two Harbors. I was working alone when a middle-aged guy came in for a room, and wanted to pay with a check from the Twin Cities area.

"I have plenty of ID," he kept telling me. I told him I'd rather see his bank balance - boy, did he laugh. He had $35,000 in his checking account. It turns out he was in town buying a car from the dealership across the road. We ended up chatting at the bar until closing time. And yes, his check cleared.

So, I believe there are better ways to reduce fraud in voting. Want me to be specific?

Let's just keep doing what we have been doing. We have registration, vouching (with address verification) and other methods. There is virtually no voter fraud in Minnesota. I can even prove that. After the Al Franken-Norm Coleman Senate election in 2008, we spent the next seven months painstakingly recounting each and every ballot in the State of Minnesota.

Know what we found? Over 900 ballots had been rejected incorrectly. That means our current system rejected more ballots than a voter ID law would prevent from voting (using data used by voter ID proponents). Clearly, requiring voter ID might actually make our elections less secure, at least in Minnesota.

Plus, we just put this issue to the voters. In 2012, voters were asked to amend the Minnesota Constitution to require picture IDs to vote. Minnesotans rejected that notion 54 percent to 46 percent.

I can understand the logic behind voter ID initiatives. On the surface, it makes sense. Something as important as voting should not be jeopardized by fraudulent voting. So, most would agree, requiring an ID to vote would, in fact, solve that problem. But as the first part of this column shows, there is no problem to be solved. Investigations by the government and all major political parties have shown that voter fraud is virtually non-existent in Minnesota.

Imagine the outcry if IDs were required to enter church services. Or to cross the border into Scanlon. Or to pick up your mail from the mailbox. Or to simply walk down the street. There's no reason we would need to do that, as none of those activities are being abused. No, until there is a problem, there's no need for the government to infringe upon our right to vote. If that changes, I'm willing to re-address the voter ID issue.

Pete Radosevich is the publisher of the Pine Knot News and an attorney in Esko. His opinions are his own. Contact him at Pete.Radosevich@Pine KnotNews.com.


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