Uncertainties in the county remain if Voter ID amendment passes

Braidy Powers isn’t certain what all will happen in Cook County if the proposed Voter ID constitutional amendment passes in November. But he is pretty sure it will be expensive.

As Auditor-Treasurer, Powers is also the county Election Supervisor and he says the consequences of Voter ID will probably mean the end of mail-in balloting.

“All voters, including those not voting in person are subject to ‘substantially equivalent identity and eligibility verification’ prior to a ballot being cast and counted. To put that into effect – ‘substantially equivalent identity and eligibility verification’ – depending upon how they actually write that… but the way you read it essentially puts same day registration and mail balloting to an end.”

Powers said voters in the City of Grand Marais will have the opportunity to cast a provisional ballot at the polls while waiting for a valid ID to eventually make their vote count. Powers said it’s likely the entire county would need to return to voting at a polling place as is the case in the city.

“Yeah, we would have to go back to polling places. The towns have town halls that are fairly modern, not too much difficulty there, for the two city precincts we use the courthouse and community center – but the other precincts are going to be problematic.”

He said some of the previous polling places no longer exist and most probably do not meet current Americans with Disabilities Act standards. In addition, polling sites would require expensive equipment.

“For example the Automark is absolutely required for every polling place. An Automark is a way for a disabled person to vote. It’ll actually read the ballot to you and allow you to fill out your ballot – it’ll actually mark it for you. And those are machines that are five to six thousand dollars apiece. We only have four of them right now.

“Most of our polling places now, I mean all of them now, we use the M-100 and for consistency you’d like to use that in all of your polling places. That is an actual counting machine where you put your ballot into the machine and it counts it for you. Without everybody using this M-100, this electronic version, then we’d be back to using M-100’s in some precincts, we’d have to have a central count to count the ones who were voting by hand and then we’d have to meld all those numbers together and that would mean more administrative cost, again.”

Powers said the county analyzed the cost of mail balloting when they first made the switch and found it less expensive than in-person voting. He said the main cost of polling place voting – not counting the required machines – is paying election judges at 13 precincts.

Powers said as it stands, the Voter ID law would also affect absentee and military balloting, however the devil is in the details and the Voter ID amendment leaves that for the 2013 Legislature to figure out.

“So it would be military or anyone overseas is going to have a very difficult time depending upon how they actually write this. It’s been the history of the Legislature; they’re going to argue these details right to the end of the session. The history that I see is that they won’t come to an agreement regardless of what this says. You’ll have vetoes, you’ll have large disagreements, they’ll write things and they’ll change them again in 2014. That’s the history.”

The timeline is short. The law would take effect in July of 2013, and while there are no state elections until the following year, the county would have to be fully prepared for Voter ID before the elections of 2014.

The full interview with Powers is at wtip.org