Mansky, local election official, concerned about voter ID requirements

Caucus straw polls
A driver's license is scanned as caucus attendees check in at Rutherford Elementary School in Stillwater, Minn. Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2012. The voter identification system was tested in Stillwater on caucus night.
MPR Photo/Jeffrey Thompson

Ramsey County elections manager Joe Mansky says local officials lack the resources to implement the proposed voter ID amendment.

Mansky, who opposes the amendment, said it would complicate the process of counting ballots from voters who register at their polling place on Election Day.

"Clearly, we do not currently have the ability to do the on-the-spot verification that ... I think would be necessary given the language in this amendment," Mansky told MPR's Cathy Wurzer on Thursday.

He also said the changes would be costly for local elections officials around the state.

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The Minnesota House approved a measure Wednesday to put the proposed constitutional amendment on the November ballot. If approved, Minnesotans would be required to show a photographic identification in order to vote. The bill, which was introduced by GOP lawmakers who say the state needs to do more to prevent voter fraud, is awaiting a vote in the state Senate.

If approved by voters, the state Legislature would still have to figure out the details of how it would work.

Mansky explains reallocation process
Ramsey County elections manager Joe Mansky in a file photo from Nov. 14, 2011. Mansky is concerned about the implementation of a proposed voter ID system that may be placed on the November 2012 ballot for approval.
MPR Photo/Tim Nelson

Mansky was critical of the recent discussion at the Capitol about the details of implementing the proposed changes.

"I think the methodology that they have chosen here will be archaic on the first day that it is implemented," he said.

An edited transcript of Cathy Wurzer's interview with Joe Mansky is below.

Cathy Wurzer: As you know, it would be up to the 2013 Legislature to pass enabling legislation if this amendment passes. What are some of the details that will need to be filled in by the Legislature?

Joe Mansky: There are a couple of things that are being introduced in this amendment that are a little foreign to us at the moment, one of which is this concept of having the substantially equivalent eligibility verification. At this point, it's not something that we do now. In fact, this is not really a term that has even been defined in the law before.

So first of all, if this amendment does go on the ballot and if the voters do approve it, we'll have to figure out what it means and how to work our way through this. I know one of the concerns that we have is how will our Election Day registration system work with this, and at this point it's not clear that those two things are completely compatible.

Wurzer: Let me ask you about same-day registration. Bill supporters say it wouldn't change. There would still be same-day registration. Other people say that's not true. What do you think would change under what you understand the bill to be at this point?

Mansky: Again, the way that this is worded, it would appear to me that anybody who registered on Election Day would not have an opportunity to have their ballot counted until we were able to go through this verification routine. This year, for example, we could easily register between 500,000 and 600,000 people. And clearly, we do not currently have the ability to do the on-the-spot verification that ... I think would be necessary given the language in this amendment.

Wurzer: So these folks could get provisional ballots, though?

Mansky: That appears to be the way that this would have to work is that all those ballots would become provisional.

Wurzer: What about cost? Do you have worries about cost with this particular bill?

Mansky: The part dealing with the provisional voting I think is the most troublesome. Because it does essentially create this parallel voting process that would incur costs on us both at the polling place -- we would have to provide some additional election judges who I presume the Legislature will want to be of different parties and so on -- and then we'll have to have a process to receive people during the days after the election as they come back to our office to show us documents demonstrating who they are.

So it does create more time. It delays our work after the election, and it clearly will impose additional costs on us at the local level.

Wurzer: What could be done to make this transition easier if photo ID makes it into the Constitution?

Mansky: As I pointed out to the Senate a couple of weeks ago, I have no basic argument with the idea that we should verify the eligibility of people or the identity of people, however they want to put that. I think the methodology that they have chosen here will be archaic on the first day that it is implemented, should it get to that stage.

The world is really moving away from photography, and I heard some misstatements of fact on the House floor the other day when they were debating this issue. One of the members said, for example, that you needed a picture ID, for example, to get materials out of the library or to open up a bank account. And of course, both of those are patently false.

I will tell you one of the real frustrations that I've had with this whole process is that no one seems to want to talk about any of this. This whole matter seems to have been predetermined before the year began, and I think that's really unfortunate.

(MPR's Cathy Wurzer contributed to this report)