Minn. House Speaker: Voting ‘a privilege, not a right’
House Speaker Kurt Zellers said that voting is not a right, but a privilege Wednesday evening, the Star Tribune reports. Zellers is not the first conservative to make that claim during the debate over voter ID which is heating up the Minnesota Legislature. Republicans and voter ID advocates have compared showing identification for voting to everything from cashing a check to boarding a plane to buying cigarettes.
“When you go to even a Burger King or a McDonalds and use your debit card, they’ll ask you to see your ID [to be] sure it’s you,” Zellers said on 95.9 FM’s “Late Debate.” “Should we have to do that when we vote, something that is one of the most sacred — I think it’s a privilege, it’s not a right. Everybody doesn’t get it because if you go to jail or if you commit some heinous crime your rights are taken away. This is a privilege.”
He backed off his statement a bit on Thursday evening: “I understand voting is a right in the Consitution,” Zellers said. “I misspoke. It’s not a privilege.”
Zellers statement mirrors one made by former Sen. Norm Coleman earlier this year at a tea party voter ID conference.
“Some places require an ID to cash a check at McDonald’s; if it’s good enough for McDonald’s it should be good enough for one of the greatest privileges that democracy affords, and that’s the right to vote,” said Coleman.
At the Minnesota Capitol, during hearing on voter ID last month, the right to vote has been compared to many things that are privileges.
“Maybe you can explain to me how we would know how many people were drinking underage if we never ID’d then,” Sen. Ray Vandeveer of Forest Lake said, noting that the same could be said about voting.
In his testimony, Minnesota Majority’s Dan McGrath compared the voting process to banking. “How fast do you think your bank accounts would empty if someone could access your account on the say-so of a friend?” he said, referencing Minnesota system of allowing neighbors to vouch for voters who don’t have IDs.
The Minnesota Voters Alliance’s Andy Cilek said voting with voter ID is the same as boarding an airplane. “I would argue this is no different than taking an airplane,” he said. “How many people would fly on an airplane if we didn’t make sure the people on that plane were who they said they were in the terminal at their destination?”
He added, “I don’t think the right to vote should be taken any less lightly than getting on an airplane.”
Committee chair Vandeveer stated to Katie Conlin of the Minnesota Catholic Conference: “You do need an ID to get cigarettes and to cash a check.”
The Minnesota Catholic Conference, the policy arm of the Catholic Church in Minnesota, opposes voter ID.
“Voting is not privilege, it is a right,” said Katie Conlin. “It’s really not comparable to buying cigarettes or getting on a plane or buying alcohol.”
Here’s what the U.S. Constitution has to say about voting:
But when the right to vote at any election for the choice of electors for President and Vice-President of the United States, Representatives in Congress, the Executive and Judicial officers of a State, or the members of the Legislature thereof, is denied to any of the male inhabitants of such State, being twenty-one years of age,* and citizens of the United States, or in any way abridged, except for participation in rebellion, or other crime, the basis of representation therein shall be reduced in the proportion which the number of such male citizens shall bear to the whole number of male citizens twenty-one years of age in such State.
“The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.”
“The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.”
“The right of citizens of the United States to vote in any primary or other election for President or Vice President, for electors for President or Vice President, or for Senator or Representative in Congress, shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any State by reason of failure to pay poll tax or other tax.”
“The right of citizens of the United States, who are eighteen years of age or older, to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of age.”