Voter ID race tightens up as the clock runs out

Voter ID supporters
Voter ID supporters gather in an Eagan parking lot on Saturday, Nov. 3, 2012, before a weekend distribution of campaign literature.
MPR Photo/Tim Pugmire

Polls released over the weekend show that the voter ID constitutional amendment is now in an extremely tight race, and campaigns on both sides are working hard to make sure their supporters turn out Tuesday.

Opponents of the proposed requirement that voters show photo identification say that their phone banking efforts have helped change minds on the amendment. Amendment supporters say they are busy trying to counter what they believe is the false information coming from the opposition.

In Eagan volunteers for the pro-voter ID campaign Protect My Vote spent the weekend walking through suburban neighborhoods and handing out campaign fliers. Stephanie Michaelis of Bloomington said she was there because she is convinced that the amendment is needed to ensure free and honest elections.

"Our country is based on the premise of 'we the people,'" Michaelis said, "and if we the people aren't getting our voice heard, or our voice is being negated by people that should not be voting, it means nothing. We're going down the wrong path then."

Don Dickerson of Roseville helped another volunteer with a rundown of some of the campaign's key talking points. Dickerson said he believes the amendment is a common sense measure that is still widely supported. But he acknowledged that the contest is much closer than it used to be.

He said there had been a lot of "misinformation, in that the military will be disenfranchised and things like that, and that seniors and such will not be able to vote.

"It really is a misinformation campaign, and I think we've suffered from that."

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Two new polls suggested that amendment support has suffered dramatically. Survey USA showed support and opposition for voter ID now tied at 48 percent, just a week after finding supporters had a 15-point advantage. Public Policy Polling also showed that support had fallen below the 50 percent mark and opposition had moved slightly ahead. Supporters of the amendment were largely dismissive of the results. Opponents said they were not surprised.

Voter ID opponents have primarily been making their final pitch over the phone. Volunteers with the Our Vote Our Future campaign packed the St. Paul offices of the community organization Take Action Minnesota to make those calls.

Nick Brambilla, a student at the University of Minnesota, said he knows his phone bank work has made a difference.

Voter ID protest
College students from throughout the state, alongside Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, gathered on Oct. 23, 2012, at the University of Minnesota to speak out against the proposed voter ID constitutional amendment.
MPR News/Tim Pugmire

"There's definitely a few types of people," Brambilla said. "There's people who are really decided one way or the other, and you're not going to change no matter what. But there are some people who are unsure on it or undecided, and don't have a lot of information on it. So a quick explanation of the costs associated with voter ID really gets them to lean to vote no."

Opponents have said for months that support for voter ID drops as people learn more about it. The proposed amendment leaves most of the details to next year's Legislature to work out, and the opposition campaign seized on that uncertainty with predictions of high costs and voter disenfranchisement.

Take Action Minnesota executive director Dan McGrath (who is not the same Dan McGrath who manages the pro-amendment Protect My Vote Campaign), said he has been watching support decline from a high of 80 percent. McGrath said volunteers are fired up because they believe they are on the cusp of a historic upset.

"We're not there yet," he said. "This is going to be a very close race, and we know really we're running against the clock. We know once voters get the facts they change their minds. The question is: Can we reach enough voters so we can defeat this thing?"

The anti-amendment Our Vote Our Future volunteers will continue making their get-out-the-vote phone calls. They are also relying on similar efforts from allies in organized labor.

The pro-amendment group Protect My Vote is sending its volunteers out on Election Day to reach like-minded voters as they drive. They plan to stand with their campaign signs near major highways and on bridges throughout the Twin Cities area.

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