This guest post was submitted by Rep. Scott Louser, a Republican from Minot
A recent post on this blog referenced a political science professor assigning partisan motivation to the voter ID bill passed in 2017. As a Republican legislator, one of the sponsors of HB1369 (I prefer to call it the Voter Integrity Act) and having worked on this bill both in committee and carrying it to successful passage on the floor of the House, I feel the need to continue setting the record straight. Since the professor of political science is only making a guess….perhaps it would help to explain what was in my mind and heart over a year ago when this bill passed.
A qualified elector in North Dakota has a minimal threshold to meet considering we do not have voter registration in our state. One must be have reached the age of 18, be a resident of this state for more than thirty days and a legal US citizen. As long as their voting rights have not been removed due to a felony for instance, all they have to do is provide evidence they are who they say they are and they’re able to vote.
Qualified electors should have an expectation that the woman in front of them and the college student behind them in line at the polling place will provide valid identification just as they and their neighbor down the street and the employee working in the convenience store do when they vote. Under the old system, a voter could simply say, “oops, sorry….forgot my identification” and not only be granted a ballot to be cast, but they’d fill out an affidavit saying they are who they claim to be. After the election, a postcard was sent to the address provided to maybe verify the voter is (or is not) who they claimed to be. Over 16,000 people voted that way in the 2016 election in North Dakota. Did that mean that a Democrat may have won in a close election they may not have otherwise won? No, because if so, then it also must mean that a Republican may have won in a close election they may not have otherwise won.
In the last session the affidavit was removed, however a set aside provision was made for the voters that were unable to provide valid identification. As long as they return to identify themselves (up to six days AFTER the election), their ballot will be counted. The legislation provides for numerous ways to identify, including state issued drivers licenses and non-driver IDs, long-term care certificates, US passports, military and tribal identifications, etc. We even allow for providing a utility bill, bank statement, check issued by the government, paycheck or government document to substantiate updated information.
With all of these reasonable provisions, Democrats and elite liberals continue to use their fear mongering, race baiting tactics of assigning victimization where none exists…and they blame Republicans. They even claim college students get a raw deal. I, for one, want to encourage college students not only to vote but to become citizens of our state. If they feel so compelled to vote for candidates and issues that affect them in their community and our state, then they can easily trade in their out of state identification and obtain a North Dakota identification (between June 2016 and the November election of 2018). If they prefer to retain their residence in another state, then they’ve chosen vote in that state. It really comes down to being treated like an adult when being given an adult opportunity to make adult decisions.
Finally, if the argument that identifying oneself to vote is about suppression, then other rights and opportunities must logically be included. If the liberal elites were intellectually honest about their concern, then they’ll encourage the Democrats in the legislature to introduce a bill to eliminate the requirement to provide identification to buy a fishing license, beer or lottery tickets. If it’s unfair to ask for identification, then it’s unfair to ask all the time….including when accepting rental applications, writing checks and boarding planes. While that day will never arrive, I will continue to defend the valid argument for the passage of the Voter Integrity Act in North Dakota: one ballot cast per qualified elector provided they identify themselves as such. It doesn’t take a genius to figure that out.