North Dakota Democrats have been pounding the state’s new voter ID law passed by the Legislature last year. They’re blaming the record-low voter turnout in the June election last month on the law, though some (including myself) might suggest that had more to do with few competitive races and a high level of voter satisfaction than the voter ID law.
Regardless, in a press release in which she throws a number of rhetorical bombs at incumbent Secretary of State Al Jaeger (she might as well just come out and call him too old for his job), Democrat challenger April Fairfield proposes expanding the types of identification which can be used to vote.
She also tacitly admits that North Dakota really did have a need for voter identification.
First, her proposal for new types of voter ID’s:
nder Fairfield’s plan, she would allow the following additional forms of identification to be accepted in elections:
1.) Military and Veteran ID’s
2.) Conceal and Carry Permits
3.) Game and Fish Licenses
4.) Passports if used in conjunction with proof of residency like a utility bill
Fairfield argues that the current Voter ID law expressly gives the Secretary of State the ability to prescribe alternative forms of identification.
“Al Jaeger may have forgotten, but he has done this twice before with the Student ID and the Long-Term Care Certificate,” Fairfield said. “Under Section 5 of the law, the Secretary of State is given this authority and according to legislative intent, it was to used for precisely the type of situation the Freedom Resource Center and ACLU highlighted.”
This sounds like a reasonable enough proposal to me. I’m a little skeptical about using fishing licenses to vote – those might be a bit too easy to fake – and I’m also wondering why people who can get passports and fishing licenses can’t be bothered to get a free ID from the state, but even so. These changes seem reasonable enough.
It’s nice to see a Democrat for once recognizing the need for voter identification, instead of denouncing it as a racist act of voter suppression.
Of course, Fairfield sort of does that to, but along the way highlights why North Dakota really did need new voter ID laws:
Under the old law, voters could have signed an affidavit attesting to their residency status.
“That is what Secretary Jaeger and the Legislature wanted to get rid of. The reason is simple. It had nothing to do with the integrity of the process. It was because Rick Berg lost the U.S. Senate race. There were over 10,500 affidavits signed during the last general election. Rick Berg lost by 3,000 votes,” said Fairfield.
“Many of Senator Heitkamp’s supporters were students and Native Americans. These are the voters who were more likely to use the affidavit. What I propose, and what Secretary Jaeger could implement right now under the current law, is to allow a limited number of additional acceptable IDs.”
“With these voter protections in place, we can protect against the voter fraud boogeymen Al Jaeger fears and make sure those who are eligible and want to vote can vote. That is the way things use to be done and should be done again.”
Those 10,500 affidavits used to vote in the 2012 election were specifically mentioned during the debate over the current voter ID laws in the Legislature (see the video below). As Rep. Boehning, who carried the legislation to the floor of the House, notes those 10,000 ballots submitted as proof of residency were never verified. In fact, there was no way to verify them before votes were counted and winners were declared.
I don’t know that any of those affidavits were fraudulent, and we don’t know that they would have impacted any of the races on the ballot (including the oh-so-close Senate race that Fairfield alludes to), but then we don’t know that they weren’t fraudulent either.
And that’s the problem. That’s why a change in the law was needed.