An election judge's view: Voter IDs might help, but not against fraud

Craig Huber
Craig Huber: I have yet to see how this measure adds significant protection to the process.
Courtesy of Craig Huber

By Craig Huber

Craig Huber, Apple Valley, is a small business owner and a source in MPR News' Public Insight Network.

The touted benefits of the voter ID amendment simply do not add up.

I've served as a head election judge for a dozen or more elections (primary, general and school district) over the past decade. There are already steps in place, both overt and subtle, to verify the identity and address of each voter. A voter ID requirement would simply change the methodology by which any election fraud would be perpetrated.

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(For another perspective on the proposed voter ID amendment, see Tuesday's commentary, "Voter ID controversy offers a lesson in independent thinking." For more information on the amendment, see this compilation of frequently asked questions.)

I have yet to see any detailed analysis that explains how this measure adds significant protection to the process.

Note that I do not say that there may not be such a case — simply that the rigorous level of analysis required has yet to be done, in part because the actual definition of how this revised process would work is apparently being left until after the decision to implement it has been made. To me, it's an indication that this is not about "fraud prevention" at all.

For example: A roster judge is told to not allow a voter to see the roster (to find his own name, for example), and is instructed to ask the individual to state his address. The judge then is to verify that information. Hence, our fraudulent voter not only has to know that the individual he is attempting to vote in the place of has not yet voted, and his name, but must also be able to recite his address. The birth date is also printed on the roster, and the roster judge is encouraged to review that data item as well. So our fraudster needs to be of a believably comparable age.

Does every roster judge do all of this every time? Sadly, probably not. But does our supposed fraudster want to take that chance — and not once, but dozens of times? He only needs to be caught once.

But what if our fraudster instead goes to the registration table? There, he already needs to show ID, or prove his identity and address by other means. To remove vouching as an option "solves" the "problem" there.

An organized campaign of fraud capable of actually swinging an election is going to have the resources to generate ID cards capable of fooling an election judge at a busy polling place, no matter how diligent. At the same time, the proponents of this amendment have yet to provide even one solid example of voting fraud that would have been prevented by this measure, let alone enough to swing even the Franken-Coleman contest — at least that I have read or seen.

On the other side, MPR's story of last week puts on display testimony from multiple instances of actual individuals and cases where this requirement would create a barrier to access to the polls.

Presenting an ID at the polls would have certain benefits unrelated to voter fraud. For example, a physical card allows the roster judge a method to determine the spelling of difficult names, for easier location in the roster book. Also, in a busy polling place it can be difficult to hear voters who speak softly, or who have speech or hearing challenges of their own. An ID would help in those instances as well. Making the showing of an ID a suggested practice (not a requirement!) in the polling place would have some value, in my opinion.