“If you’re an actual resident I can’t imagine it getting easier,” state Rep. Rick Becker said of new voter ID legislation which passed earlier this week.
HB1369 is now before Governor Doug Burgum and some, including the Grand Forks Herald editorial board, are urging a veto. But Becker says the legislation is prudent, and an improvement over the status quo which allows voters without valid ID to cast a ballot after signing an affidavit saying they are who they say they are.
The problem, which Becker pointed out to me, is that those affidavits aren’t reviewed very closely.
The number of ballots cast using affidavits was up 55 percent in 2016, and there are some indications that a disturbing number of those ballots may have been cast fraudulently.
[mks_pullquote align=”right” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#000000″]”Sometime during the two years between elections you’re going to get to a town that has a DMV in it,” he said.[/mks_pullquote]
Rep. Chris Olson, a Republican from West Fargo, laid out some data during a floor debate over this legislation earlier this session. He told his fellow lawmakers that Cass County was still working on verifying affidavits used to cast ballots in last year’s election, and that among the thousands of affidavits found they found numerous problems including 86 Minnesota addresses, 2 Wisconsin addresses, 102 affidavits “returned undeliverable”, and 5 people who denied having executed an affidavit to vote.
And that’s just for one county.
This new legislation doesn’t allow anyone to cast a ballot with an affidavit. If you don’t have valid ID when you go into vote you can cast a ballot, but it’s set aside until you return with valid ID.
“All you have to have is enough gumption to go in and get an ID,” Becker told me of the new bill, pointing out that state ID’s are free for those who can’t afford them.
I asked him about those who live in the rural parts of the state, who say they’re too poor or too infirm to travel in to a DMV to get an ID, and Becker dismissed the concerns.
“Sometime during the two years between elections you’re going to get to a town that has a DMV in it,” he said.
Will this bill stand up to legal scrutiny? Who knows. The courts have applied an absurd standard to voter ID laws, whereby laws setting out the qualifications one must meet to vote are fine, but laws aimed at verifying that any given voter meets those qualifications are not.
If this latest change to the law is struck down the legislators ought to keep trying. Because if one thing is certain, the status quo is unacceptable.
During the 2015 session North Dakota’s lawmakers passed a bill removing affidavits
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