When I and four other college students from Winona participated in the Southern civil rights movement of the 1960s, we were proud of Minnesota. Like the dozens from all over Minnesota who spent months or years helping people to register and vote in the face of poll taxes, literacy tests, threats and murder, we knew the folks back in Minnesota had our backs.
People from all over Minnesota supported us with money, food, transportation and good wishes, but most of all with phone calls to local Southern officials when we were arrested, jailed, threatened or beaten. Back then, Minnesota was known for the way its leaders and people supported justice and assured that every man and woman could vote with no restrictions.
What’s happened in 50 years? Will Minnesota restrict one of our most precious rights? A right that people were jailed, beaten and murdered for exercising?
Make no mistake—requiring a photo ID is a restriction. It will reduce the number of young, poor and senior voters. The ID itself may be free, but it will cost to get the necessary proofs and travel to where it’s available. Elected officials in Pennsylvania have described their motivation for a voter ID law in their state as a way to reduce the number of voters. A leader from the civil rights movement has called current voter ID laws an “absolute assault on the right to vote… it has been very well-orchestrated.” And another stated: “They’re trying to erode our voting rights again…”
One of the many powerful things I learned in the civil rights movement is that if you restrict people’s ability to participate in the decisions that affect their lives and community, they will have less interest in making their community a safer and better place. We need to encourage everyone to vote and have an investment in keeping Minnesota a great place to live.
Voter ID would only prevent voter impersonation, a problem we don’t have in Minnesota. Let’s be proud that Minnesota is the state with the highest voter participation. Vote NO on voter ID.
Joe Morse serves on the Land Stewardship Project’s Winona County Organizing Committee.