Is it true that the Voter Restriction Amendment could drastically reduce Minnesota’s stellar turnout which leads the nation more often than any other state? Absolutely! We can’t know by exactly how much because so much depends on how the new legislature will fill in the many details left blank. We do have some good hints, however. Election statistics and research show how voter restrictions affect voter turnout. Minnesota had almost 3 million voters in 2008. We use this figure to keep the math simple.
Provisional Ballots – First of all, Minnesota has same day registration now. Over 540,000 Minnesotans registered and cast their vote on election day in 2008. That would change to provisional ballots with the Voter Restriction Amendment. Election statistics show that states with provisional ballots have 10% to 12% lower turnout than states with same day registration. A decline of 10% to 12% in Minnesota would mean that 300,000 to 360,000 fewer votes would be cast in Minnesota. This makes the change from same day registration to provisional ballots by far the most important aspect of this amendment.
A Government Issued Photo ID – Second would be a decline in turnout due to the requirement that voters have a government issued photo ID. A 2008 study of the impact of more restrictive ID laws by Shelley de Alth showed a drop in turnout of 1.6% to 2.2%. This study compared a minimal increase in restrictions. It compared requiring that voters report their name and address to the election judges to requiring that they sign an oath that they are that person or that they show one of a large variety of ID’s. MN’s Amendment is far more restrictive than states in Alth’s study in the kinds of ID citizens can use, and it allows no exemptions as most states do. In fact, the MN Voter Restriction Amendment would make MN’s photo ID requirement the most restrictive in the nation. Therefore, we estimate a somewhat larger 3% drop in turnout due to the Amendment’s Photo ID requirement. That would mean 90,000 fewer people would cast votes due to the photo ID requirement for in person voters.
Same ID Required for Mail-in Voters – Finally, MN’s Voter Restriction Amendment would require mail-in voters to have equivalent identification to in-person voters. No other state has such a requirement. Therefore, there are no studies to look at for the effect of such a requirement. Since the requirement relates to a similar government issued photo ID, the same estimate of a 3% drop in overall turnout is given for the mail-in photo ID requirement as for the in-person requirement. We estimate that 90,000 fewer mail-in votes would be cast due to this requirement. Keep in mind that this decline in turnout could be much higher depending on how the legislature interprets the requirement that mail-in voters have equivalent photo ID as in-person voters.
Estimate of Decline in Voter Turnout
Due to Voter Restriction Amendment
Percent Decline Number of Votes Cast
End of Same Day Registration 10% to 12% – 300,000 to – 360,000
In-Person Photo ID
Requirement 3% – 90,000
Mail-in Photo ID Requirement 3% – 90,000
Estimate of Total
Decline in Turnout 16% to 18% – 480,000 to – 540,000
In other words, under the Voter Restriction Amendment, we can expect that MN would have a huge drop in turnout so that its turnout would be close to the U.S. average. MN currently averages 17% higher than the U.S. turnout. The estimates above are not meant to be exact and can’t be because the legislature left so much undefined in the Amendment. If this Amendment were to pass, our next legislators would make decisions that could minimize the drop in turnout or that could maximize it. The figures do demonstrate, however, that the Voter Restriction Amendment’s requirements would result in a dramatic drop in votes cast in Minnesota.
If you add up the numbers of people affected by the voter restrictions in the proposed amendment, they total over 1 million. About one in three Minnesotans’ voting procedures would be affected by the Amendment. About half would meet the new restrictions, and about half, or one in six Minnesotans, would lose their voice. People you know will not have their votes count in future elections if the Amendment passes. Could it be your child at college, your daughter serving in the military, your husband who left his wallet at the office, your former neighbors who had their house foreclosed, your grandmother in a nursing home, the elderly man who walks by your house who doesn’t drive, your friend who recently moved to Rochester to take a new job, or your uncle who lives in rural Minnesota?