ALSO: New hearings underway this week on GOP polling place Photo ID restriction laws in SC and PA...
By Brad Friedman on 9/24/2012, 12:07pm PT  

According to a new poll out today, voters in Minnesota may be getting wise to the state Republicans' scheme to suppress the votes of minorities, the elderly, students and the poor, all of whom have the annoying habit of voting in favor of Democrats.

After MN's Democratic Governor Mark Dayton vetoed a law passed by Republicans in the legislature last year that would have required state-issued Photo ID for voters at the polling place before they were allowed to cast their vote, the Republicans decided to bypass the Governor and take the issue straight to the voters.

Without a single Democratic vote, and opposed by the state's chief election official, Sec. of State Mark Ritchie (D), GOP members of the legislature voted to put the issue up for a Constitutional Amendment referendum on the ballot this November.

While the wording of the ballot question itself was challenged by the League of Women Voters and other voting rights groups who charged that the language chosen for the ballot was purposely deceptive and failed to detail the real effects of the Amendment, at the time we first wrote about the matter in July, our legal analyst Ernie Canning noted that, if the referendum was allowed on the ballot, there was a very real chance that it might be supported by voters who, he said, have been "utterly deceived [in the] court of public opinion" about the need for such a restriction.

Citing a May 2011 poll of Minnesotans by the Star Tribune, Canning noted that a whopping 80%, at the time, supported the adoption of photo ID restrictions in the state.

The bad news is that, despite some skepticism displayed during the recent MN Supreme Court hearing about the ballot question (as well as the legalities of such a Constitutional Amendment itself, which was not at issue during the case heard by the court, whose justices are all appointees of former Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty), the court eventually decided to allow the initiative to remain on the ballot this November as written.

The good news, on the other hand, is that, following an uptick in mainstream media coverage of the issue over the past several months, while a slim majority in the state still favor the amendment, support appears to be nose-diving, at least among Democrats and independents, according to a new survey by the Star Tribune...

According to the paper's coverage of their Star Tribune Minnesota Poll as published today, support for the measure has "weakened dramatically" since the 2011 survey:

Slightly more than half of likely voters polled --- 52 percent --- want the changes built around a photo ID requirement, while 44 percent oppose them and 4 percent are undecided.

That is a far cry from the 80 percent support for photo ID in a May 2011 Minnesota Poll, when the issue was debated as a change in state law. Support among Democrats has cratered during a year marked by court battles, all-night legislative debates and charges that the GOP is attempting to suppress Democratic votes.

Republicans and independents continue to strongly back the proposal, which passed the Legislature this year without a single DFL [MN's state Democratic Party] vote.

But 52 percent approval is a thin margin for a constitutional amendment six weeks before the election. A change in the Constitution must secure a majority of "yes" votes from all ballots cast. That means a voter who doesn't vote on the issue in effect votes no, setting a higher bar for passage.

"Last year," the paper explains, "Nearly two-thirds of Democrats and 83 percent of independents said yes" in response to the same survey question. But now, things have drastically changed.

"Only 22 percent of the likely Democratic voters support it in the Minnesota Poll. Independents, who favored photo ID by 83 percent in 2011, now support it by 61 percent," according to latest poll results. At the same time, the Star Tribune notes, "Republican support remains strong at 87 percent."

At the time The BRAD BLOG first covered questions about the MN GOP initiative, Canning noted:

It is ironic that so many citizens in the Land of 10,000 Lakes --- as high as 80% --- would still be taken in by the thick layer of lies that surround the ALEC/GOP push for voter suppressing photo ID laws. After all, it was Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) who so thoroughly demolished the credibility of GOP "voter fraud" salesman Hans Von Spakovsky and his "voter fraud" canard during the September 2011 hearings before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights. The hearings were convened in response to the billionaire Koch brothers-funded, Paul Weyrich co-founded American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)-fueled GOP effort to enact new state voting restrictions across the country.

Canning went on to lament:

If a majority of Minnesotans either watched Franken's demolition of the "voter fraud" canard on C-SPAN during the September 2011 Senate hearings or read The BRAD BLOG with any regularity at all, they would realize that polling place photo ID restrictions have nothing to do with preventing "voter fraud" and everything to do with disproportionately disenfranchising poor, elderly, student and minority citizens. They would not be taken in by such right-wing sophistries as the notion that one must present a photo ID to board an airplane or to buy a beer --- itself, a canard since few citizens, after a certain age, are asked for ID to purchase an alcoholic beverage --- activities whose importance pales in comparison to the fundamental prerequisite that all citizens in a democratic society be afforded the opportunity to participate in elections.

But, alas, the vast majority of U.S. citizens have neither watched the C-SPAN video of the September 2011 hearings nor read any of nearly ten years of articles at The BRAD BLOG. The vast majority are bombarded daily, on the other hand, by an all-pervasive right-wing media that entails not only Fox "News" and right-wing radio, but multiple right-wing newspapers and think tanks --- all of whom have no problem at all repeating the lies in service of what they see as the greater good: holding or obtaining political power.

Well, the good news, at least as of late September 2012, is that many more Minnesotans --- at least those Democrats and independents who don't rely on the deceptions of Fox "News" and Rightwing talk radio for their "news" --- are finally catching on to the Republican ruse.

With support for Democratic candidates growing in the state (TPM's Poll Tracker average currently shows President Barack Obama with a nearly 8 point leader over Gov. Mitt Romney, and Sen. Amy Klobuchar with a whopping 20 point lead over her Republican rival Kurt Bills), the state GOP's latest attempt to restrict voting in the Land of 10,000 Lakes may end up failing after all at the polls this November.

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Elsewhere today, in related news, closing arguments are being heard before a 3-judge panel in D.C. federal district court in South Carolina's Photo ID restriction case. Last December, the U.S. Dept. of Justice refused to give preclearance to the GOP law after finding that, according to the state's own statistics, "minority registered voters were nearly 20% more likely to lack DMV-issued ID than white registered voters, and thus to be effectively disenfranchised by [the law's] new requirements."

The same data showed that "there are 81,938 minority citizens who are already registered to vote and who lack DMV-issued identification."

SC already had one of the most strict polling place ID requirements in the nation, even before passing the more draconian restriction last year. Prior to passage of the new law, voters were required to show either a state-issued drivers license, a state-issued Photo ID, or a voter registration card sent to them by the county before casting their vote at the polls. The new law, essentially, does away with only the last of those three options, despite the fact that, as the DoJ pointed out in their rejection of the law as a violation of the federal Voting Rights Act [PDF], the state failed to offer "any evidence or instance of either in-person voter impersonation or any other type of fraud that is not already addressed by the state's existing voter identification requirement and that arguably could be deterred by requiring voters to present only photo identification at the polls."

The state, thanks to its long history of racial discrimination at the polls, is one of several "covered" jurisdictions under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act requiring "preclearance" for new election-related laws. Having failed to receive that preclearance from the DoJ late last year, the state is now exercising their option to have another bite at the same apple by appealing the matter to the 3-judge federal panel today.

And tomorrow, in a Commonwealth Court in Pennsylvania, a new hearing will be held over the state Constitutionality of their new polling place Photo ID law, also passed by Republicans. An August ruling by the same Commonwealth Court judge shocked plaintiffs by approving the new law by declining to issue the temporary injunction sought by voting rights advocates in the state.

But last week, all 6 sitting members of the PA Supreme Court (3 Republicans and 3 Democrats) ruled to vacate the lower court's finding and ordered a new hearing in which the state must prove they are legally able to issue "free" Photo IDs to all eligible voters who require them, and that no voters will be disenfranchised in the bargain. If Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson is unable to "predict" that will be the case under the new law, he has been ordered by the Supremes to issue a temporary injunction by October 2nd.

In the Pennsylvania case, the state stipulated before the trial even began that --- even though the law was said needed by lawmakers to combat "voter fraud" --- they were unaware of a single instance of polling place impersonation (the only type of voter fraud that can possibly be deterred by polling place Photo ID restrictions) in the history of the state.

Indeed, as a nationwide survey of all known cases of election fraud in all 50 states since 2000 recently revealed, there are just 10 known cases of polling place impersonation out of hundreds of millions of votes cast across the country during the same period.

In short, polling place Photo ID restrictions are not meant to combat "voter fraud", they are meant to combat voters, specifically, Democratic-leaning voters, and their ability to cast their lawful vote in this November's Presidential election and beyond.

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