Mondale, Carlson fighting voter ID

Walter Mondale, Arne Carlson
Former Vice President Walter Mondale and Former Minnesota Gov. Arne Carlson, have been named as the leaders of a statewide campaign to oppose a proposed constitutional amendment to require photographic identification at polls.
MPR photo/Tim PUgmire

A group opposed to the proposed voter ID constitutional amendment has named former Democratic Vice President Walter Mondale and former Republican Gov. Arne Carlson as the leaders of its statewide campaign.

Officials with the "Our Vote Our Future" coalition held a news conference Tuesday to introduce their leadership team, and highlight their effort to convince voters to reject the proposed requirement for all Minnesotans to show photo identification at the polls.

The two elder statesmen from opposing political parties said they were drawn into the amendment debate by concerns over its potential effect on Minnesota's election system.

Supporters argue an ID requirement is needed to prevent voter fraud. But Mondale said the two recent statewide recounts proved to him that such fraud doesn't exist in Minnesota. Mondale said he thinks the amendment is aimed at preventing some people from voting.

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"It's designed to make it harder for senior citizens, for our military serving overseas, for students and for others," Mondale said. "The law is so vague we're not sure who else will be picked up in the net. It's designed to discourage them from effectively voting. I hope we'll turn this down."

Carlson said he too thinks the amendment is aimed at keeping some people from voting, and that he is willing to travel the state this summer to debate the issue. He said Minnesotans should be skeptical of the amendment and its origins.

Another concern, Carlson said, is that the ID requirement could pose a financial burden on local government.

"This is one of the larger unfunded mandates that we've seen," he said. "It imposes millions and millions of dollars across our local governments and doesn't provide a penny to pay for it, to say nothing of the million on the state side to pay for these magnificent ID cards."

Amendment supporters insist that all eligible Minnesotans will still be able to register at the polls through a new provisional balloting system. But those ballots won't be counted on Election Day, and Carlson said the delayed results will cause big problems.

"You're going to have law firms fighting on both sides endlessly on what's going to count and what's not going to count," Carlson said. "And if you think the past elections dragged on for a while, you haven't seen anything yet."

"Our Vote Our Future" lists more than 50 member organizations, including labor unions, social service agencies and religious groups. Former U.S. Rep. Tim Penny, a Democrat, and civil rights leader Josie Johnson are also co-chairs of the campaign.

Dan McGrath, a spokesman for the group Minnesota Majority, which supports the ID amendment, downplayed the other side's announcement. McGrath said he doesn't think it will have any influence on the ballot initiative.

"The people of Minnesota are going to recognize that we need a better system for election integrity in our state," McGrath said. "Having some former politicians in Minnesota speak against it -- these guys are no election experts. It's not going to have any impact on the campaign."

McGrath said amendment supporters will not have public faces for their campaign, which he said is about the issue, not personalities.