Photo ID: Women, minorities hardest hit

Today’s Minneapolis Star Tribune features a page-one story by Jim Ragsdale opposing the proposed Minnesota constitutional amendment requiring photo identification for voting. The story’s genre is a familiar one. It’s the genre mocked by the parodic New York Times headline: “World to end tomorrow: Women, minorities hardest hit.”

The story is illustrative of the Star Tribune’s pathetic coverage of the photo identification amendment. The Star Tribune has served as the public relations arm of Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchi, an avowed opponent of the amendment. When Ritchie carried his opposition to the amendment over to giving it a ballot title designed to undermine support, the Minnesota Supreme Court slapped Ritchie down for overstepping the bounds of his authority. He is not exactly a paragon of wisdom or virtue on the subject.

Yet here is Ragsdale basing his story on the party line: “[A] strict ID requirement, such as is being proposed in a constitutional amendment this November, can be a significant barrier for anyone who lives off the ID grid. According to the Minnesota secretary of state’s office, that number could run as high as 84,000.”

Hmmm. The ID grid — never heard of that before. What is the ID grid? How does one live off the ID grid? Living off the ID grid — sounds like a crisis calling for a some kind of government program.

A skeptical reader might be pardoned for thinking that illegal voters are also living “off the ID grid,” and that the amendment would prevent them from voting. But the thought appears not to have crossed Ragsdale’s mind:

Those affected could be people like Evelyn Collier, 79, and her fellow residents at the Camden Care Center nursing home in north Minneapolis, many of whom had long since let their state IDs lapse. When they needed travel documents for a Caribbean cruise two years ago, the staff spent months trying to round up birth and marriage certificates and other documents needed for a photo ID.

Most of the documents eventually came in, but Collier, an African-American woman born on a farm in Mississippi in 1932, missed the trip for lack of an official birth certificate.

Or 63-year-old Greg Jackson — that is the name he has used as long as he can remember — who arrived in Minnesota seven years ago with an Illinois ID and failing eyesight. When he sent home for his birth certificate, he was surprised to learn that his legal name was different from the name he had always used, and which was on his Illinois ID.

Several document requests, assistance by volunteers from Little Brothers-Friends of the Elderly, and a $320 legal name change followed before Jackson obtained his Minnesota ID.

“If it was that hard for me to get my ID, with my impediments, what about all the impediments other people have?” said Jackson, of St. Paul.

Ragsdale elicits this quote from former Minnesota Secretary of State/current state Rep. Mary Kiffmeyer:

Rep. Mary Kiffmeyer, R-Big Lake, the amendment sponsor, said the government would offer free IDs, and that the availability of waivers for those without underlying documents and adaptations of current law by the Legislature could address problems without disenfranchising anyone. The general language of the amendment, if it passes, would be fleshed out by the 2013 Legislature.

But the end of the world is nigh: “[T]he uncertainty worries advocates for the elderly and poor, as well as students who try to get their fellow students to go to the polls. They fear that the no-brainer for the many will become a barrier for the few — just enough of a hurdle to keep a significant subset of eligible people home.” The Star Tribune, of course, doesn’t mention illegal voting or vote fraud. The Democrats protect illegal voters as if they are a core constituency, and they seem to know what they are doing.