Voting a right, not a privilege

As we approach Election Day on Tuesday, November 6, students here at Minneapolis Community and Technical College are working to remind everyone of their very important civic duty to vote. This year, it’s more important than ever for students to vote because there is a constitutional amendment on the ballot that will restrict our ability to vote in the future.

Voting isn’t a privilege, it’s a right, and it should be free and uncomplicated for every eligible voter, including students and young people, to participate in our democracy. That is why I am encouraging fellow students to VOTE NO on the Voter Restriction Amendment.

Now, this amendment may sound like common sense — after all, we need photo ID to accomplish a lot of tasks in daily life. But when you take a closer look, you see that this poorly-written amendment is too complicated and has serious unintended consequences for students, young people and many other Minnesotans.

This amendment would drastically restrict students’ right to vote. First, it would eliminate our ability to use our student IDs to register to vote, including if you register on Election Day. Last week the lead proponent of this amendment said, “College identification of any kind is not going to be permitted by the Legislature,” for voting if the amendment passes. That means IDs for both public and private schools.

This change will make it a lot harder for students to vote. Right now all you need to do is bring your college ID to your polling place or bring a roommate or friend from the precinct to vouch that you live there. But if this amendment passes, this simple and effective system won’t work anymore.

Instead, you’ll have two bad choices. You can cast a “provisional ballot,” which won’t be counted on Election Day. If you’ve moved between elections and haven’t updated your ID, you will likely fall under this category. Your vote will only be counted if sometime after Election Day, you can get an undefined “government-issued” ID, then return to the county auditor and prove who you are. But we don’t know what kind of “government-issued” IDs will be acceptable.

Or you can drive to your parents’ home to vote, if that’s the address on your driver’s license — and for some of us that means traveling to Duluth, Mankato, Worthington, or Moorhead, when it’s not out of state.  Considering the tight budgets we all live on, it makes voting impractical and impossible for many students.

And if your home address is in Minnesota, you may run into trouble if you vote absentee, too. No one knows how the rigid requirements of the amendment will allow any absentee vote to be counted.

Students and young people move a lot, and this amendment would penalize us for that, too. Right now, our elections system is flexible and provides ways for people who move a lot to vote: as it should.  Our elections system was built this way to encourage all eligible voters to vote. That is why Minnesota’s election system is nationally recognized, and why we lead the nation in turnout every year.  But that all changes for the worse if this Voter Restriction amendment passes.

The Voter Restriction amendment also concerns me because it could prevent another group of young people from voting: our military. This amendment has no exemptions for military members and would not allow them to use their government-issued military IDs because those IDs don’t include an address. It’s already difficult to get to a DMV here at home; I couldn’t imagine trying to find a DMV to update your ID in Afghanistan.

It is wrong to restrict the rights of the people who fight and die to serve our country.

Finally, the voter restriction amendment will cost taxpayers more than $50 million to “fix” a system that isn’t broken. This means even fewer public dollars available for education at a time of double-digit tuition increases.

This amendment would restrict eligible students and young people from voting — and that’s not common sense. I urge you to join me and students across the state and VOTE NO on November 6. Let’s defeat this amendment that will make it more difficult, expensive and restrictive for us to vote.