Second Ward, Minneapolis

This is the public policy forum of Minneapolis Second Ward (Green) City Council Member Cam Gordon and his staff. We use this space to talk about some of what Cam’s working on, explain his positions, and share a little of what life in City Hall is like. Please feel free to comment on posts, within certain ground rules. See our disclaimer, including ground rules, here:

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

"Minneapolis" Group Pushes for Photo ID Voting Requirement

There was a flurry of short stories in various metro media today on a group of "Minneapolis" activists pushing for a photo ID requirement in Minneapolis elections. Some of the stories did not even identify this "Minneapolis" organization, but a few did. As you can see here, this is a cooperative project between the Minnesota Voters Alliance and a group called, vaguely and innocuously enough, "Citizens for a Better Minneapolis." Who doesn't want a better Minneapolis, right?

There are a few holes in this story. The first is that the Minnesota Voters Alliance is suburban-based, right-wing organization whose main purpose has been, in my opinion, to oppose democratic empowerment of Minnesotans, mostly at the municipal level. They are the group that sued the City over the constitutionality of ranked choice voting and failed dramatically at the Supreme Court, handing the City an unambiguous ruling that ranked choice voting is indeed constitutional. They have long opposed nonpartisan primaries, wanting to have a Republican to vote for on every general election ballot. They are not, by any stretch of the imagination, a "Minneapolis" group.

So that leaves "Citizens for a Better Minneapolis." I take them at their word that they're a group of Minneapolis residents. However, it's pretty clear that they came into existence specifically for this antidemocratic ballot initiative. Here's my evidence: the Secretary of State's records indicate that their initial filing was exactly one week ago, 3/23/30.

On the other hand, at least they're trying to make it appear that this is a grassroots "Minneapolis" effort. The organizations behind the similar St. Paul and Duluth initiatives appear to just be the Voters Alliance and the anti-tax group Citizens for Responsible Taxation.

One other interesting note: the guest speaker at the kickoff event for their Minneapolis effort is Republican ex-Secretary of State Mary Kiffmeyer, who lives in Big Lake and was thrown out of office by Minnesota voters in favor of pro-democracy SOS Mark Ritchie. Just for laughs, I thought it might be fun to figure out Kiffmeyer's level of support in Minneapolis. As far as I can tell she lost every single Minneapolis precinct in her reelection bid in 2006 by more than 10 points. Why would they choose her as their kickoff spokesperson?

Questions about the sponsoring organizations aside, what they want to do is profoundly antidemocratic and a terrible idea. This proposal will make it much harder for Minneapolis residents to vote, especially poor people, old people, young people who don't yet have a drivers' license. I say this as someone who has worked as an election judge in a precinct (2-10, to be specific) with a large population of elderly citizens who do not speak english as a first language and who do not have drivers licenses. This will make it harder for these residents to exercise their constitutional right to vote, but it goes beyond them. It will make it harder for everyone in Minneapolis to vote; longer lines, more inconvenience, less congeniality between voters and election judges. I am convinced that this is the proposal's actual intent. All of the arguments about "protecting" legitimate votes are a ruse. These organizations don't like it when Minneapolitans vote, because they typically don't agree with us on matters of policy.

I have one other question about the proposal, raised by Minnesota Voters Alliance spokesperson Andy Cilek in his interview with MPR. He states that "their plan would make photo IDs available to those who couldn't afford them." How? Does he pay for this out of the Minneapolis general fund? He clearly can't get his plan passed at the state level, so it's unlikely that they'll fund these IDs. So in addition to having to spend more on election judges, we'll also take on paying for poor people's IDs?

These "Minneapolis" citizens groups are welcome to spend their money and time putting this antidemocratic proposal on the ballot. I am confident that the actual voters of Minneapolis, in their wisdom, will see through the rhetoric and the "we're local!" smokescreen and vote this terrible idea down.


At 12:18 AM, Anonymous Kris Broberg said...


Citizens for a Better Minneapolis was formed a week ago and it first project will be taking on this Photo ID petition. However I can assure it will not be its last and it has been an idea of mine others long before this petition drive.

Watch in the months to come as we put out our mission statement, we are and we will be much more than just the Photo ID petition.

I ran for city council in Ward 13 last year because I care a great deal about this city, and that is the same reason I am forming this group along with others in this city. We want to see this city fulfill its potential and be a great city again.


Kris Broberg
Citizens for a Better Minneapolis

At 10:55 AM, Blogger Robin Garwood said...


Thanks for participating in the discussion at SecondWard.

You talk about making Minneapolis "a great city again." I disagree with the implied assumption that it's not a great city now, or that it was somehow better in some sort of bygone halcyon age. And while there are many ways that I'd like to see our city live up to its potential, I also strongly disagree that the best way to start is by making it harder for residents to exercise their constitutional right to vote.

I'm interested in how that argument works: first we make it harder to vote, then our city gets better somehow? What's the middle step?

I'm very interested in the fact that your website (which is devoted entirely to this issue) does not present a single shred of evidence that any person who is ineligible to vote has voted in a Minneapolis election. I'd think that, if you did have any such evidence, you'd be sharing it. That makes me doubt very much that you've got any. Why should the voters of Minneapolis "solve" a "problem" that, as far as the available evidence shows, does not exist?

On the issue of "Citizens for a Better Minneapolis," I'm fascinated that the group's mission statement does not yet exist, but it has a project up and running. It will be interesting to see how the photo ID scheme fits into a broader program; will the group's entire mission be antidemocratic, or will that just be a portion of its agenda?

Similarly, it will be interesting to see where the group's funding comes from. Are you committed to raising funds from Minneapolitans, or will you accept contributions from outside of our fair city? I'm not familiar with the finance laws on PACs and/or 527s, but it will be interesting to see whether you accept contributions from individuals only, or from corporations and nonprofits as well.

Lastly, here's a question that I admit is rather snarky, but that I have to ask anyway. The current rules for gathering petition signatures in Minneapolis only require that each signer write the address at which he or she is registered to vote. We do not require that someone prove who they are, by showing a photo ID to the circulator of the petition. Is "Citizens for a Better Minneapolis" going above and beyond that requirement, as you'd like the city to do in its elections, and asking each signer to show you his or her ID? Are you noting the ID numbers anywhere, as proof that these folks are, indeed, who they claim to be? I'd hope so.

At 9:20 PM, Anonymous Kris Broberg said...


Frankly, all of your questions are a bit snarky.

It is real easy to sit back and criticize someone else's efforts, especially when we are paying your salary which gives you the time to do it.

To answer your question on how it works and the middle steps...

First, we make sure people believe our elections have integrity. (Many do not, over 50 of them that have doubts showed up last night.) We do this by having people demonstrate they are who they say they are in order to vote.

Then we shed light on city hall, good and bad.

Then we toss out of office the political elite establishment who run this city for their corporate elite friends and donors, at the expense of the citizens.

Then we restore honest and fair government that treats everyone equally and is focused on the basics, that are currently being neglected, and...

Then we have a Better Minneapolis for the citizens.

(I would actually like to extend an offer to Cam to help us in this effort because I think we have common ground on the understanding of these problems.)


Kris Broberg
Citizens for a Better Minneapolis

At 2:53 PM, Blogger Robin Garwood said...


Thank you for not following the lead of your organizational ally Andy Cilek and calling me a "fruitcake." (

What I get a salary for is to be what's called a "Policy Aide." That means that it's my job to look at policy issues in our city and help my boss enact good policies and propose bad ones. Your proposal falls into the latter category. It's a terrible idea attempting to solve a problem that doesn't exist, that will substantially harm the people of the Second Ward (especially U students and elderly legal immigrants in Cedar Riverside). It's my job to look out for these folks, and defend them from terrible ideas like yours.

Over 50 people think that our elections lack integrity? Perhaps that's because there are people, yourself and MVA included, actively trying to make people mistrust our elections without presenting a shred of evidence that any of your accusations are true.

And rather than just using words like "many" when talking about the people who feel that our elections lack integrity, you could do what the City does when we have questions like these. Check this out: The City had a question as to how the electorate liked using ranked choice voting. So instead of saying "well, lots of people seemed to like it just fine," we hired a respected academic to do a statistically significant survey. If you're serious about even making the claim that Minneapolitans don't trust our elections, this is the standard I expect. Not outdated, nationwide polls from Rasmussen (a poller that is well-known for being Republican-leaning). Current, Minneapolis-specific, statistically significant data.

If you're really interested in voters trusting our elections, you'd only criticize the integrity of our elections if and when you had an evidence basis for doing so. You're creating the problem you claim to be trying to solve.

As to all of your political rhetoric, I'm not going to engage. This blog exists to talk about policy (such as the one you're proposing) not politics (who wins and loses elections). The one observation I will make is that you seem to have admitted that your policy program (require a photo ID) is in service of your political program (toss out the incumbents). This strikes me as quite significant - it proves, to some extent, that you want to make it more difficult for those who support candidates you oppose to exercise their constitutional rights. It seems like one more great reason for everyone in Minneapolis to oppose your initiative.

Now, maybe the rest of my questions were too snarky for you to answer, but I'd like to note the ones that you haven't responded to. A quick recap:

- Do you have any evidence that voter fraud has occurred in Minneapolis?

- Is the agenda of CBM specific to voting?

- Where will your money come from (Minneapolis or outside and individuals only or companies as well)?

- Will you be asking your petition signers to show you their photo IDs?

Lastly, thank you for the invitation for Cam to help you. I'm afraid he'll have to decline. One of the principles he uses to judge policy proposals is "grassroots democracy." Your proposal is entirely and utterly antithetical to that principle. He (and I) will continue to oppose your initiative until, the voters of Minneapolis willing, it fails.

At 8:26 PM, Anonymous Brian J. Bergs said...


As another of the original petition signers, I am happy to respond to questions also. One of your questions is:
"Do you have any evidence that voter fraud has occurred in Minneapolis?"

This question is truly a non-starter. Without a picture id, such fraud is extraordinarily difficult to detect. We simply don't know if it is a problem or not. It has always bothered me that I am not asked for an ID when voting. In fact, I am so programmed to give one, I usually end up taking my license out anyway.

In response to your concern let me give an example. There was no reason to more closely examine the undersized gusset plates on steel arch bridge designs in the U.S. roadway system. There were over 700 of such bridges used for 40 years with thousands of vehicles crossing each bridge each day. The problem was obvious to some but with no serious incidents, why bother reinforcing the gusset plates. We all know what happened in Minneapolis to our 35W bridge. On the bus ride home Monday night my neighbor, an engineer, told me he noticed the bridge construction was faulty very early on. Other engineers said they noticed the same thing but again 700 bridges, 40 years, millions of crossings, still no problems.

In the case of Photo ID's we all know the value and don't need an engineering degree. It helps to prove who we are when we get on a plane, cash a check, sign a contract in front of a notary public, get a job, go to the health clinic, etc.

It helps to preserve the integrity of all financial, legal, transportation, and health systems.

Another problem you cite is the additional time it might take creating lines at polling sites.

It's not a problem to ask for id and may even speed things up as I have had to repeat and spell my name for many election judges before they found me. Handing them an id might actually speed up the process. The amount of time asking for photo id is minimal and in my 28 years of living in 2 different wards of Minneapolis, city elections are none too busy. Perhaps Ward 2 is different.

Plus, my job at a Federally Qualified Health Clinic in one of the most economically depressed parts of town has responsibility for registering patients. Asking for an id is not a problem neither in the amount of time nor the fact that the overwhelming majority of citizens who use our clinic have photo ids. Such a request will likely be mandatory if I read the new health bill correctly. Many clinics even photograph patients and put in their file to insure integrity of giving good healthcare.

You bring up valid concerns and I hope I can help answer them.

At 12:33 PM, Blogger Robin Garwood said...

I completely disagree with you that the question about whether voter fraud has taken place is a non-starter. Rather, I think that your initiative will be a non-starter until you provide some evidence.

I thank you for putting in writing that, as one of the strongest supporters of this initiative "we simply don't know if it [voter fraud] is a problem or not." I'm sure opponents of your idea will quote you extensively.

You refer to fracture critical bridges. I commend your attempt to find a catastrophic metaphor, but unfortunately it's not analagous, for several reasons.

First, as you point out, fracture-critical bridges have been in place for several decades. Minneapolitans, on the other hand, have been voting without showing photo IDs for 150 years, without any evidence you can point to of a problem - catastrophic or otherwise.

Second, non-fracture-critical bridges are not significantly harder to drive (or bike) across than fracture-critical bridges. I am convinced that your proposal will make it somewhat harder for everyone to vote, and *much* harder for certain people to vote, your arguments to the contrary notwithstanding.

Third, you use the anecdote about your engineer buddy, who knew that fracture-critical bridges were a bad idea all along, and state that "we all know the value [of photo IDs]." But you're mixing your metaphors, because what your buddy knew is that *there was a problem*. Which is exactly what you have stated, as one of the people who most strongly want this initiative to pass, that you *do not* know.

Yes, everyone knows that photo IDs are helpful in some situations. What we don't know is whether they're *necessary* to protect the integrity of our elections. We don't know that because (as you've admitted) we don't know whether the integrity of our elections has been compromised in any way.

You refer to the stuff one typically must show photo ID to do. Here's an alternative understanding of the world:

- I don't show an ID (or provide an ID number) to buy anything online.
- I am very infrequently asked for my ID with any credit or debit card purchase, and there's no legal requirement that retailers ask for my ID.
- I am never asked for an ID when boarding a bus, light rail, or numerous other public transportation modes.
- I am not asked for a photo ID to check out a library book. I could be using someone else's library card, for all they know!
- I am not asked for a photo ID before testifying before the Council, or any other public meeting, even on quasi-judicial matters.
- I am not asked for a photo ID to sign a petition to put a question on the ballot.

For every example you can share of ID-dependent transactions, I can probably find you a counterexample. So your assertion that a photo ID "helps to preserve the integrity of *all* financial, legal, transportation, and health systems" is simply counterfactual. You're not telling the truth.

More importantly, this isn't the point. The sorts of examples you provide are mostly *private* transactions, not constitutionally protected rights.

For instance, I have to be literate to get almost any job. So why not create a literacy requirement for voting? Because the Supreme Court declared that an unconstitutional barrier to exercising the franchise.

The history of this country has, thankfully, been the story of increasing access to democratic rights. First it was just landed white guys. Then white guys without land. Then nonwhite guys. Then women. Then nonwhite people (especially southern Blacks) were given the *meaningful* right to vote. Now the only folks left without the franchise are non-citizens and felons serving their sentence.

The broad trend of our society has been towards opening up the franchise to more and more people. Your proposal is an attempt to go the other direction. For that reason, I oppose it, and for that reason I fully expect it to fail.

At 6:20 PM, Anonymous Brian J. Bergs said...

Robin Garwood responded:
“For every example you can share of ID-dependent transactions, I can probably find you a counterexample. So your assertion that a photo ID "helps to preserve the integrity of *all* financial, legal, transportation, and health systems" is simply counterfactual. You're not telling the truth.”


There are a number of points in your latest posting that I can take issue with. However, at the end of the above quote, you say that I am a liar. That is a serious slanderous statement that will be the focus of my response. I am going to give you the benefit of the doubt that that what you meant to say is that my statement was overbroad in the use of the word *all* (which you highlighted) which calls into question the veracity of my assertion.

If you re-read my statement I say that it *helps* to preserve the integrity of *all*… The fact that a bus rider does not have to show photo id does not detract from my statement. I am assured that the bus driver had to show photo id to get her/his license, background check, employment verification, etc. The same is true for the rest of those systems. A photo id is required at the critical junctures (call them gussett plates) of all of these systems. Voting is one of those gussett plates in the electoral system that, in my opinion, is a bit undersized at this point without photo id’s.

We disagree on many of these items and of the success of this endeavor and you are correct we can find facts to back both of our positions. That is the beauty of our democratic system.

If you did mean to just flat out call me a liar, we have nothing further to discuss.

At 3:01 PM, Blogger Robin Garwood said...


One can make untrue statements without being a liar. I believe that you sincerely believe what you said. It just happened not to be true, even with your use of the word "help."

See, the "transaction" between a bus driver and a bus rider isn't impacted in any way by the fact that the bus driver had to show his ID to someone at some point in the past. How is a rider to know that the driver is the same person who took that background check and showed that ID in the past? How is the bus driver to know that when I place my wallet with my metropass inside it against the reader, and it beeps, that the metropass is really mine? (Sure, he could look at the picture, but no bus driver ever has, in my four years as a metropass user.)

What you said is simply not accurate. I can give testimony before a Council committee on a variance request, and all I would be asked to provide is my name and address, and there's no need for an ID at any stage of that "transaction."

The point you're trying to make is, as far as I can tell, that the use of photo IDs is a) ubiquitous and b) unproblematic. You could make that point without stretching it by claiming a false "all" where a true "most" would suffice.

In any event, the larger point is both flawed and unimportant. Flawed because, as I've pointed out, there are plenty of things one can do without a photo ID. A photo ID is just not as universally necessary as you're making it out to be.

Unimportant because there are many other near-ubiquitous necessities that we also shouldn't use to screen people out of the voting process. For instance: The ability to use a computer is necessary for most jobs these days. Literacy is required to do almost anything. Having a certain amount of money is necessary to participate in most aspects of society. Should we use any of the above as prerequisites for voting? Absolutely not.


An astute reader and fellow Policy Aide, who does not make typographical errors, pointed out a mistake on my part in a previous comment. I of course meant that my job is to "help my boss enact good policies and *oppose* bad ones." Through typos, clearly.

At 1:16 AM, Anonymous Kris Broberg said...


We may just have to disagree. You act as though there have been no instances of Voter fraud in MN. That is not true. FACT.

You assert requiring a Photo ID to vote is equivalent to taking the vote away from Women or blacks. NOT TRUE

Photo ID is not a perfect solution, however it is reasonable, fair and workable.

Right now all you need to do is:
Register some fake people. ACORN.
Distribute those names and addresses and have people show up and give the name and address and vote. That is virtually undetectable voter fraud. Photo ID would help with that.

Right now one individual can vouch for up to 15 people for same day registration. Photo ID would eliminate the need for vouching. Currently Minneapolis does not reconcile its same day registrants for up to 6 months after the election. This means any fraud detected would not affect the outcome of the election...

The system is ripe for fraud and abuse and for you to suggest that none is committed is insane, in my opinion.


Kris Broberg

At 11:49 AM, Blogger Robin Garwood said...


We certainly do disagree, and will continue to.

You state that it is a "FACT" that voter fraud has occurred in MN, but you fail to note an instance. Don't just make the assertion, supply the evidence. Please point out a case of verified voter fraud, not in the Minnesota (that's not where your petition drive is occurring) but in the city of Minneapolis. It would be helpful to your case if this wasn't an instance of a felon incorrectly thinking he/she had gotten his/her franchise back, but an honest-to-goodness case of a "made up person" voting.

I did not assert that "requiring a Photo ID to vote is equivalent to taking the vote away from Women or blacks." [sic] Re-read what I wrote. I asserted that the broad trend in this country has been towards greater enfranchisement, and that your proposal is counter to that trend. I stand by that assertion. You are attempting to make it significantly harder for *certain people* to vote, and by so doing make it a little harder for *everyone* to vote.

You state that "Photo ID is not a perfect solution, however it is reasonable, fair and workable." The problem with this statement is that it is a "solution" to a "problem" that is not proven to exist. It doesn't matter how "reasonable" or "workable" it is - it's a solution to a non-problem.

You trot out the old ACORN canard. Does it really not matter to you at all how completely something has been debunked? Here's the actual truth on ACORN: some of their employees turned in obviously fraudulent registration cards. They took actions against those employees. The law in most states, including this one, dictates that a filled-out registration card cannot be discarded by the organization that collected it. So they turned them in, but identified them as fraudulent. "Mickey Mouse" and the rest were never enetered into the voter registration system.

Moreover, the only way that your fears about ACORN make sense is if you assume that our Elections staff are either incompetent or complicit. Neither are true; rather, they are highly competent and extremely fair. They examine the voter registration cards that are turned in to them, and refer questionable ones to the appropriate places for investigation and potential prosecution.

Either you know this, and you're cynically lying about the "ACORN" impact on elections, or you don't, and you're simply misinformed. Which is it?

You go on to attack the vouching process. Having worked as an election judge, I can tell you that it has great value to lawful, eligible voters. The law states that someone must live in the state for 20 days in order to vote. What would you have us tell a renter who had moved into his/her apartment 25 days before the election, not enough time to get a new photo ID? So sorry? No voting for you?

That is simply unacceptable to me, as someone who serves a part of Minneapolis with a high proportion of highly mobile renters. So I put the question to you: is disenfranchising these people simply a side-effect of your "solution" to this "problem," or is it the actual PURPOSE?

You talk about how fraud would not necessarily affect the outcome of an election. That may be true (although it would be interesting to see a court case backing you up on this point), but you lose sight of something important: the fraudster him/herself would still be looking at a felony prosecution.

Lastly, you accuse me of suggesting that no voter fraud is ever committed. I have never said that. I've said that you haven't given any examples. And despite all the comments we've traded back and forth, you still haven't. I think that's telling.

At 1:34 PM, Blogger Robin Garwood said...

A commenter using the appellation "William Wallace" attempted to post a comment on this thread. He made several interesting points, but unfortunately crossed the line from civil discourse into "defamatory comments," which are specifically disallowed by SecondWard's disclaimer here:

As an example of the sort of thing to avoid, his comment was peppered with the cryptic invective "libturd." (There's a fascinating etymological narrative there, to be certain...) I have rejected the comment.

William Wallace, if you're still out there, please re-send your comment keeping the content but losing the gratuitous insults and I'll be happy to post it, and then post a response vigorously but politely disagreeing with most of your points.

Everyone else, especially my jousting partners Kris and Brian, thanks for keeping the disagreement robust but the rhetoric civil.

At 9:56 AM, Anonymous William Wallace said...

I'll let the left dictate the terms I use as soon as they let me dictate the terms they use.

Meanwhile, you seem to have confused what is a concise yet accurate description with "gratuitous insult".

I would recommend that you reconsider your censorship, assuming this blog is really supported through the City of Minneapolis through city funds, and is created as a limited public forum. You opened the floor, but you don't get to exercise prior restraint. Perhaps a refresher course on the Bill of Rights, and how and why they apply to the even City governments is in order. Would you like an official letter from a disinterested third party organization as a refresher course?

I'd recommend that you just plug your nose, and approve the comment.

At 11:57 AM, Blogger Robin Garwood said...


As you can see, I've posted this comment of yours, because you refrained from using defamatory and profane language. Please read the disclaimer again. Here's the most important part, with some emphasis added:

"Further, comments WILL NOT be placed onto this blog if they fall into any of the following categories:

· Defamatory comments
· Profane language
· Comments that promote, foster, or perpetuate discrimination on the basis of race, creed, color, age, religion, gender, marital status, status with regard to public assistance, national origin, physical or mental disability, affectional preference or sexual orientation"

I'm the administrator of this blog, and it is therefore my *responsibility* to reject comments that violate these ground rules. I ruled that your comment violated them on the above three counts. You're not going to change that ruling by arguing with me.

If you want your opinions, which were quite valid (even if I strongly disagree with most of them) to appear on this blog, you will have to remove any and all defamatory comments, profanity and discriminatory speech from your comment.

For example, the use of a word or phrase that attempts to equate a group of people bound together by "any system or codification of belief or of opinion" (one of the dictionary definitions of the word "creed," which you will find in the disclaimer text above, and a definition that includes adherents of any political philosophy) with either mentally disabled persons or fecal material - much less both! - will require me to reject your comment.

Just follow the example of my two respectful conservative sparring partners Kris and Brian, and repost your comment without the defamatory, profane and discriminatory invective.


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