MINNEAPOLIS, MN–On Tuesday, when voters across the nation go to the polls and cast their votes, Minnesotans can expect to be at or near the top in turnout again. Minnesota is recognized as a perennial leader in voter participation, with eligible voters often turning out at a higher rate than any other state in the nation. Most recently, in 2008, 78 percent of Minnesota’s eligible voters cast a ballot.
While an educated and politically active citizenry are often cited as the foundation for Minnesota’s electoral turnout success, another key factor may be overlooked. Minnesota arguably has some of the nation’s least restrictive election laws on the books.
The Freedom Foundation of Minnesota (FFM) reviewed voting requirements and election laws for all 50 states and the District of Columbia, focusing on standards in five key areas:
♦ Same-day, or Election Day, Registration: Minnesota is one of just eight states (and D.C.) that allow citizens to register and vote on Election Day. In 2008, the number of so-called same day registrations accounted for 18 percent of total votes cast.
♦ Third Party Vouching: Minnesota is one of only five states that allow registered voters or election judges to vouch for the validity and identification of another voter.
♦ Voter Identification: Unlike 18 other states, Minnesota does not require voters to present non-photo identification when casting their ballot.
♦ Photo Identification: Minnesota does not require or request citizens to produce a photo ID to vote, as do 8 other states. Two states, Kansas and Pennsylvania, require first time voters to furnish a photo ID.
♦ Federal Voting Requirements: Minnesota is among 22 states (plus D.C.) that meet the minimum voter identification requirements for new registrants as established by the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA) following the contested 2000 presidential contest.
In 2008, same-day registration resulted in more than a half million Minnesotans (542,247) registering and voting on Election Day, the most among the handful of states that allow the practice. Yet forty-two states do not allow same day registration of voters for various reasons, including concerns over sufficient time to verify the voter’s identity and to prevent potential voter fraud.
The bottom line: Minnesota is one of just two states, along with Iowa, that allow potential voters to take advantage of the three least restrictive ways to cast a ballot: third-party vouching for voters, Election Day voter registration, and the minimum federal identification requirements.
Experts agree, these are key factors in Minnesota’s consistently high voter turnout. Yet there’s also increased concern over voter fraud in the state. Earlier this month, Hennepin County just announced the prosecution of 47 cases of voter fraud from the 2008 election and similar concerns have been raised in other Minnesota counties.
While these cases represent a small percentage of voters, Minnesotans may never know the full extent of improperly cast ballots, given the state’s lenient election laws. With fewer restrictions and more voters, it’s more important than ever for Minnesotans to be vigilant on Election Day.