By Kitty Westin
Advocacy Director, The Emily Program Foundation
On Tuesday Nov. 6th each of us have the opportunity to vote in the General Election, and this year there are two proposed Amendments to the Minnesota Constitution on the ballot. As Advocacy Director of The Emily Program Foundation I am writing to urge you to vote “NO” on the “Photo Identification Required for Voting” Amendment. You might be asking why I oppose this seemingly reasonable proposal. On the surface it seems to be a sensible requirement, so how could it possibly hurt anyone?
I am very concerned that the Voter ID Amendment will disenfranchise eligible voters who live in residential treatment facilities, hospitals, or in other out of home placements. If passed, the voter ID Amendment will require all voters to have an ID with a current address. The proposed amendment will make it very difficult for people who live in residential facilities (like the Anna Westin House) to vote by eliminating vouching. The current rules give residential facility staff the authority to verify the identity (vouch) for people living in the facility so they can register on Election Day. Many people who live in residential facilities are far from their home and would have a difficult time getting to their district to vote. This is why it is important to have a system in place that allows them to vote in the district that houses the treatment program. It is unjust for people to lose the right to vote because they happen to be in a treatment facility on Election Day.
Another concern is the cost associated with obtaining the required photo identification. While there will be no cost for the ID itself, people will need to pay for the required documents such as a birth certificate. In some areas of the State people will have to travel up to 100 miles to a location where they can get the photo ID card and this could make it difficult for people who do not have access to good transportation. Many people who are being treated for eating disorders and other mental health issues are either temporally unemployed or strapped financially because insurance has denied to pay for the cost of treatment, the need to make co-pays and other expenses. Adding additional costs and financial burdens is unnecessary and unfair.
And finally, amending the Constitution is a big deal! When something is in the Constitution it is “written in stone” and extremely difficult to change if, down the road, there are unintended serious consequences like disenfranchising eligible voters in Minnesota.
I urge you to exercise your right to vote on November 6th and to consider these arguments as you make your decision on how to vote on the Voter ID Amendment. Please vote “NO” and protect the right to vote for people with eating disorders and everyone who lives with a mental health disorder.