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Auditor:?Read up on amendment

October 20, 2012
Jenn Brookens - Staff Writer , Fairmont Sentinel

FAIRMONT - Like many states, Minnesota is weighing a constitutional amendment to make a photo ID mandatory for voters.

Voter fraud has been relatively non-existent in Martin County, according to Martin County Auditor Jim Forshee. There has only been one case since he took office in 2002.

"Our one case was a person who had not voted in the past four years, and they signed a same-day voter registration," Forshee said. "They have to sign declaring they are a legal resident and they are not a convicted felon. This person was, and when her registration was processed, we learned her vote should not have been counted."

There is another type of voter fraud being targeted by the voter ID amendment: reported "busloads" of out-of-area people coming in to vote.

"There are reports of things in the big cities, about a busload of people, and one person vouches for them," Forshee said. "Right now, a person can vouch for up to 15 people."

However, Forshee expressed concern that no specific plan has been announced on how to implement mandatory voter ID if it passes.

"I don't think both sides know how this will really affect things," Forshee said. "For this amendment, if it passes, it will go into the constitution. Then it's virtually unchangeable; that's my biggest concern. Technology changes so much, we don't know how this will play into that years from now."

Voter ID also would same-day registration obsolete, create the possibility of drawn-out election results, and perhaps slow the pace at the polls on election day.

"For those same-day registration ballots, they would be handled as a provisional ballot," Forshee said. "They'd have to wait up to 10 days to have their ballot counted, so results of elections would be delayed."

There is also the question of exactly how a voter ID card would work. If it involves online access, that could prove costly for rural areas.

"In Martin County and other places, they have polling places that are in township halls," Forshee said. "Would there be Internet access available for things such as tablets if needed?"

While a driver's license or another state-issued photo ID would be sufficient to vote, identification solely for voting would need to be paid for by the state.

"The state would pay for these IDs, but in a roundabout way, who still pays?" Forshee asked. "It is concerning that there is no concrete plan. Would they go through the driver's license bureau? Would it be the county? How much will it cost? There are a lot of unknowns."

Whether the voter ID amendment passes or fails, Forshee still has great confidence in the election process in Martin County.

"We do a post-election handcount, which shows our machines are working," Forshee said. "The numbers on the roster equal the number of ballots we have, and it verifies that the machines are counting correctly. I also like having the paper ballot because it gives us a paper trail. It's nice having that option. Minnesota does have a good election system, and the recounts we've had show that."

As for the voter ID amendment, Forshee hopes people will make an informed decision.

"I'm not putting my personal opinion out there," he said. "But I would just advise people to read up on it as much as they can. Once it is in the constitution, it's basically set in stone and will be difficult to reverse."



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