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In the Know column: Devil is in the details for voter ID

The following is an opinion column written by one of the rotating writers of "In the Know." It does not necessarily reflect the views of the Echo Press.

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By John Stone

There’s an old saying, “the devil is in the details” and that certainly applies when it comes to changing rules for voting for public officeholders.

I have a certain sensitivity to this, my birthday is in the first few days of November so I pay attention to talk about the need for a photo identification to vote.

I have three documents with my picture on them, my Minnesota driver’s license, my VA Administration medical card and my passport. My passport says I am a U.S. citizen, my VA card marks me as a veteran but neither has my address on it. Only my Minnesota driver’s license has my address and my picture.

Every four years that license needs to be renewed and a person gets a card a few weeks before the renewal date to remind him or her to renew the license. I don’t think I’ve ever had the new license back by my birthday, which some years is actually election day.

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One would presume that those writing laws would account for this, that if I needed to provide a photo ID to vote that I could take my old, often by then expired license, and the paperwork for renewal and that would be acceptable. But one never knows for sure.

Of course people who move and change addresses have the same issue, or people who get married and change names, or people who have lost their license for some reason and need to reapply.

For example, would a person who moved into a new apartment Nov. 1 of an election year be guilty of a crime for incorrect address on his or her drivers license (which might be invalid if it didn’t have the correct address) if they hadn’t gotten their license renewed by election day, which is the first Tuesday after the first Monday of November? If that election was on Nov. 2 that could be pretty tricky. For driving purposes I think a person has 30 days for renewal, would a new law for voting recognize that for proof of voting residence?

And there are people who don’t have driver’s licenses. When I was a kid we couldn’t wait to get our driver’s licenses when we were old enough. Now there seems to be less of a rush to do so. And there are the elderly who choose not to drive any more.

I assume under a voter ID law the state would provide IDs for these people. If they are only used for voting the state would have to do so, otherwise the cost of the ID could be considered a form of a poll tax, which would be illegal.

And of course there is the issue of what else might be a valid ID. There could be other ID cards that could be accepted if they had a person’s picture and address. And there is the issue of fake IDs, I’m sure that there are people out there producing fake driver’s licenses that could pass muster from most election judges.

The devil really is in the details.

John Stone is the former mayor of Glenwood and former publisher of the Pope County Tribune and Starbuck Times. In the Know is a rotating column written by community leaders from the Douglas County area.

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