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Dave Olson, Published September 25 2012

Voter ID equipment could cost Moorhead $65K

MOORHEAD – A Moorhead City Council member and a Clay County commissioner raised concerns Tuesday about the potential consequences of a proposed amendment to Minnesota’s constitution that would require a government-issued photo ID for voting.

“Voter ID seems to be an answer that’s looking for a problem,” said Clay County Commissioner Jon Evert, who joined Councilman Mark Altenburg to warn that the requirement could cause substantial costs to local governments.

Altenburg said many potential impacts of the proposal up for a statewide vote Nov. 6 remain unknown, but he said the city estimates that buying the required equipment alone could cost city taxpayers $65,000.

“This is going to directly impact property taxes next year. We can’t count on the state (for funds),” he said.

Altenburg and state Sen. Keith Langseth, D-Glyndon, voiced concerns that the amendment would make it difficult for some groups to cast ballots during elections, including college students, soldiers serving overseas and seniors.

In a written statement Tuesday, Minnesota House Majority Leader Matt Dean, R-Dellwood, dismissed criticism of the amendment, which the Legislature placed on the ballot with strong Republican support.

In particular, Dean said claims made by Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie and the DFL party regarding mail-in balloting are false and meant to scare voters.

“Mail-in balloting will continue with photo ID, that’s a fact,” Dean said. “Democrats, led by Secretary Ritchie, are desperate to defeat what is a very popular idea and they don’t have facts on their side, so unfortunately they are misleading voters,” he said.

Dean said the state will bear the major costs of implementation, including a voter education plan and the cost of free state ID cards for those who do not have a driver’s license or current state ID card.

Altenburg said public opinion surveys indicate support for the proposed amendment is eroding, and he said the type of fraud the amendment aims to combat – in-person voting at the polls – is nonexistent in Minnesota.

“We have never seen a case where someone has come to the poll to vote and someone has already signed in for them,” Altenburg said. “We’ve never seen it in Minnesota.”

Bea Arrett, an 83-year-old resident of Moorhead and an election judge for 35 years, said at the Tuesday news conference that the ID requirement would make it difficult for her and many of her fellow seniors to participate in elections.

“We want Minnesota to help people vote, not to put problems in their way,” Arrett said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Olson at (701) 241-5555