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May 21, 2011

The Honorable Mark Dayton Office of the Governor 130 State Capitol 75 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. St. Paul, MN 55155

Governor Mark Dayton: We, the undersigned coalition of voting, disability and civil rights organizations, write to express our strong opposition to SF 509/HF 210 and urge you to veto this unnecessary, costly and harmful legislation. Quite simply, this legislation is part of a national strategy to scale back voting rights in this country for racial minorities, seniors, the working poor and students. For decades, Minnesota has been a national model for election administration. The last two recounts have shown that Minnesota has some of the best election laws on the books -- laws that specifically create an effective, open and transparent process, particularly for those rare times in which elections are extraordinarily close. That is why it is so puzzling that legislators would introduce legislation to try to dismantle a great election system. The voter ID legislation before you is a solution in search of a problem. While supporters of this bill argue it is needed to combat voter fraud, numerous investigations in Minnesota and several national studies have failed to uncover evidence of substantial voter fraud that would be addressed by requiring government-issued photo identification at polling places. Instead, these bills will only erect barriers to the ballot box for hundreds of thousands of Minnesotans. A survey conducted by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law found that 11 percent of American citizens do not possess a valid, government-issued photo ID. Those numbers

increase among certain populations: 15 percent of eligible low-income citizens, 18 percent of young eligible voters and 25 percent of African-American eligible voters. A 2005 study of voting-age citizens in the neighboring state of Wisconsin determined that 55 percent of African-American males and 46 percent of Hispanic males—as compared with 16 percent of white males—lack a driver’s license (and the corresponding figures for females are 49 percent of African-Americans, 59 percent of Latinas, and 17 percent of whites). These statistics make it clear that this legislation will have disproportionate impact on the very communities that have fought so long against attempts to minimize their voice in the voting process. While supporters of the bill claim that this is not their intent, there is no question that this is what the impact will be. With such a proud tradition of voter participation in Minnesota, it is distressing that such a harmful and divisive piece of legislation has made it to your desk. Please stand up for all Minnesotans and veto SF 509/HF 210. Sincerely, Advancement Project African American Ministers in Action All Education Matters America Votes American Association of People with Disabilities Black Youth Vote! Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law Community Action of Minneapolis Common Cause Demos Energy Action Coalition Fair Elections Legal Network Feminist Majority Foundation Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Right Under Law League of Women Voters Minnesota National Association for the Advancement of Colored People

National Coalition on Black Civic Participation National Council of Jewish Women National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Action Fund National Organization for Women People For the American Way Progressive States Action Project Vote Rock the Vote Somali Action Alliance The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights The National Urban League