City reports details staff and cost implications of voter identification measure

The Minneapolis City Clerk’s office, which is responsible for administering elections in Minneapolis, released a report that details the cost and other implications of a proposed amendment to the Minnesota constitution that will be on the ballot this November calls for, among other things, new voter identification requirements.

The Clerk’s office report examined the wording of the proposed amendment and the impact similar changes have had in other parts of the country where similar laws were implemented. It does not evaluate the merits of the proposition. Instead, it offers information and analyses to help people understand the potential impacts that this change would have.

Under the proposed constitutional amendment, voters would be required to provide a photo I.D. to prove identity and also a government-issued I.D. to verify a correct home address. This provision would make Minnesota the first state in the country to mandate this level of identification. Other provisions include changes to in-person and absentee voting and same-day registration and vouching, along with changes to polling places and election judge responsibilities.

According to the report, the Minnesota Management & Budget Department estimates the startup costs to State and local government agencies to be approximately $50 million. The ongoing operational costs to local governments are estimated to be more than $10 million. Much of the cost would involve the implementation of provisional balloting, which currently does not exist here in Minnesota. 

According to the proposed amendment, anyone who cannot provide sufficient identification at their polling place could still cast a provisional ballot. These provisional ballots would not be counted on Election Day, and would only be counted if the voter provides sufficient identification in the days following the election. The extra staffing time required for this, along with a voter education plan and other costs associated with establishing and maintaining a provisional ballot system in Minnesota, are among the the contributing factors in the cost estimates.

In addition, the amendment would require that the voter identification system be implemented in time for the November 2013 election, which would impact Minneapolis because of its local election. If passed, the report concludes such a timeline is unworkable, particularly since the amendment would require state lawmakers to adopt standards and provide direction for implementing the amendment during the 2013 legislative session. Once legislation is passed and signed by the governor, the Minnesota Secretary of State’s office would need to implement the rules to ensure conformity and adherence statewide. The report concludes local election officials “could have potentially five months to as little as four weeks” to complete the reform in time for November general elections. The August 2013 primary elections would complicate matters as well, since it would abide by the previous election rules.

The report was presented at the last Elections Committee meeting of the City Council. To see the report and other supporting information, see the July 19 Elections Committee Agenda.

Last updated Aug 6, 2012