Arne Carlson | LeftMN photo
by Steve Timmer
Sep 11, 2012, 1:30 PM

“Baby Boy” Carlson

In a post on her blog, Minnesota Matters, Lori Sturdevant writes about our former governor who is only identified as “Baby Boy Carlson” on his New York birth certificate.

Arne Carlson is one of the Chairs, along with Walter Mondale, of the Our Vote, Our Future campaign organized to defeat the photo ID requirement for voting — really voter suppression in a cheap disguise — on the November ballot.

In her post, Sturdevant explains how having a birth certificate like Carlson’s would complicate — and perhaps prevent — Carlson from getting a voter ID. But Sturdevant makes a couple of assumptions in her post, assumptions that prevent an understanding of what really lies beneath this amendment.

Carlson, who will turn 78 in two weeks, has a valid Minnesota drivers’ license. Presumably that piece of magnetized plastic would serve him in good stead if the amendment is enacted and a photo ID requirement is implemented beginning in 2013.

This is absolutely and fundamentally wrong. It is safe to assume that Governor Carlson first got his Minnesota driver’s license before the state started requiring a birth certificate to get one. His driver’s license does not prove his citizenship. You cannot grandfather — so to speak — in some voters by allowing them to vote without proof of citizenship while requiring others to have an ID that does.

That would be a denial of equal protection. It would also violate the “substantially equivalent” eligibility requirement in the proposed amendment. There is no way to say that requiring some people to prove citizenship with a birth certificate while allowing an entire swath of voters — who got first got their licenses before about 2000 — to continue to vote without having shown one to get an ID is “substantially equivalent.”

For similar reasons, the amendment cannot even be phased in as people renew their driver’s licenses. It wouldn’t be equal or substantially equivalent treatment.

And you thought that the lines at the Department of Vehicle Services or the AAA were long now.

And speaking of the AAA, are we going to have the AAA deciding who gets to vote? It certainly isn’t going to do it for free, in any event. And who will pay?

Let’s say you have four years to run on your driver’s license, but you need a new one because of the birth certificate requirement. And yes, you can afford it. By the terms of the amendment, you’ll have to pay for it.

Sturdevant thinks that Arne will probably be able to figure it out, if it comes to that:

As someone who knows his way around government red tape, that’s a chore Carlson likely can handle and afford. But it won’t be so for everyone who faces this problem and wants to vote, he predicted. Coming at a time when American democracy is already suffering from power residing in too few hands, it’s why he considers this amendment “absolutely frightening.”

Sturdevant is more sanguine Arne’s chances than I am, and not because of any misgivings about Arne. I’ll have more on that, but right now, I’m outta here for a couple of days.

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