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Forum editorial: Criticism of voter ID is absurd

The aftermath of last month’s North Dakota primary and municipal elections has been distinguished by partisan hooey, often directed at Secretary of State Al Jaeger. Such silliness is common in a political year, but when the criticism ranges from studiously ignorant to just plain goofy, the critics should be called out.

The turnout was low, said critics who have been led by Jaeger’s Democratic opponent. Therefore the secretary is to blame, they said. Yes, turnout was low, as it routinely is for a June primary without hot-button issues on the ballot. The only statewide measure was a housekeeping change in requirements for initiative and referral petitions. It was not the kind of question that stirred passions and motivated voters. Where contested local races were on the ballot, voter turnout was better.

Second, critics allege voters were disenfranchised by new voter identification requirements that had been passed by the Legislature and were supported by Jaeger. Therefore, the flawed logic goes, Jaeger is responsible for voters being turned away from polling places.

More nonsense. The incidence of voters not being able to vote because of ID problems was hardly measureable, and certainly no greater than before new rules went into effect. And since critics of the ID requirements suggested the new rules worked against traditional Democratic constituencies, the logical jump is that Democratic leaders assume their voters are too stupid to understand the requirements.

And by the way, even with voter ID changes, North Dakota’s voting system is the simplest, most open and most transparent in the nation.

In final desperation, critics of Jaeger and the ID changes whined that there was no reason for change because voter fraud is almost unheard of in the state. How shortsighted.

Putting a better ID system in place is smarter than closing the barn door after the horse is gone. The state’s population is growing and changing. It’s good policy to stay ahead of the potential for voter fraud.

It’s a political year. Expect rhetoric to be heated but empty. That pretty much describes the partisan criticism of the new voter ID law.

Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.

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