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The Costs and Benefits of Minnesota’s Proposed Photo ID Constitutional Amendment

In November, Minnesota voters will be asked to approve a constitutional amendment that would require people to present a photo ID before voting. In light of Minnesota’s loose voting rules and disputes over recent elections decided by razor thin margins, the amendment offers a sensible solution to help prevent fraud and maintain voters’ confidence in Minnesota elections.

Opponents claim the photo ID requirement will be too costly. However, estimates offered by Common Cause Minnesota and other groups wildly exaggerate the likely cost.  By itself, a photo ID requirement will create minimal financial obligations, roughly $2.9 million in the first general election, $915,000 in the second, and less in subsequent elections.

Photo ID would produce cost savings by streamlining the verification and registration of voters, eliminating the awkward process of verifying identity and residence through vouching, reducing the complexity of the registration judge’s job, and increasing the accuracy of registrations.  Due to a lack of data, these savings were not measured.Though difficult to measure, they do provide an offset to the above costs, especially in high-population counties.

Substantial cost savings accrue when photo ID is coupled with electronic poll book technology. E-poll books and photo ID should be viewed as going hand-in-glove in order to maximize efficiencies, cost savings, return on investment, and bolstering of the principles of voters’ rights. After an initial investment of $5 million in e-poll books, the data in this report point to substantial ongoing savings of $1.1 million per general election.

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