It was a long debate, but the Minnesota House finally approved putting Voter I.D. on the ballot as a constitutional amendment yesterday. If the Senate approves later in the week, the final vote could come by the end of the week.
The discussions over Voter I.D. are particularly irritating because they never really get to the heart of the issue. The problem that no one really wants to face is why having a valid identification is such a problem for a lot of people -- one reason in particular is something no one wants to discuss. If you move around a lot, there are a lot of costs involved in keeping your identification up to date.
You have to renew your driver's license in Minnesota once every four years. I paid $24 for a renewal last year. If you move, you need to pay $13.50 for an update. As a practical matter, a lot of people don't want to bother with that cost and don't get a replacement license each time they move.
Why is this? Neither side wants to admit it, but there are some people who live in Minnesota who move a lot. Renters are one class, but there are rather a lot of people who bounce around from place to place and really don't have a fixed address. Someone I know very well works in a public sector job. In the course of doing her job, she is often required to ask people for identification. She has told me that on a daily basis, presenting a current i.d. is a problem for some people. When she inquires, as she must, if the address on the identification card is current, the answer is often "no, I live someplace else now" or "I live over South" (that would be South Minneapolis) or somesuch. In a surprising, and mildly alarming, number of cases, the individuals don't bother carrying a driver's license at all, which is especially interesting since the place my public sector confidante works is in a suburban location in which the vast majority of visitors arrive via car.
So what is the problem? Is it the fee structure for getting an i.d.? Is it the hassle of taking time out of work to get to the DMV? Is it just laziness? Are a lot of people going Galt and resisting the entreaties of their government? Do some people simply resent having to show their papers, please? Or are a lot of people living here without identification because they are here illegally?
Those are questions that I can't answer. And a lot of those questions are ones that we are hesitant to ask in a polite society. While I am convinced that the primary reason the DFL doesn't want Photo I.D. is because it makes it easier to cheat, we still need to address the mechanisms involved in getting proper identification.