Tag Archives: Voter ID amendment-Minnesota

Voters Face the Veiled but Pernicious Intent of Voter ID Amendment

Crying wolf – for real.

Well fed wolves in sheeps’ clothing are pulling the wool over the eyes of naïve voters in state after state.  Good people are following like lambs to the slaughter a well-orchestrated, determined and pernicious drive to skew the election of 2012 – and elections to come.

Though by nature Minnesotans are not mean-spirited we may have too much confidence in the wise and independent judgment of some elected officials who may themselves be innocents in a national crusade to purge the rolls.  We quibble with the legislative process and grump about Legislative intransigence.  Still, Minnesotans are accustomed to wrapping ourselves in the virtual security blanket of good government.  We tend to our own business and trust that others will butt out of our open democratic processes.

If we were around in the 60’s we have vivid memories of the terrible struggle for voters’ rights in the South.  Still, we are shielded so that for most 21st Century Minnesotans passage of the voting rights amendment is a legislative blip from another time and place.

Most Minnesotans have always known same day registration and a hassle-free – even pleasant – experience at the neighborhood voting site.  Reading the wise words of former Secretary of State Joan Growe in last week’s StarTribune was a great reminder of the intent and effective application of state law we take for granted, a law by which Minnesotans abide and that has effectely protected the system from fraud.

Still, one of the two Amendments to the State Constitution that will face us on November 6 is the quietly stealthy Voter ID Amendment, the silent killer of an open electoral process.  We know, but somehow want to ignore, this blatant intrusion on freedom of many of our friends and families to exercise their inalienable right to have a voice in the democratic process.

Though the tide appears to be turning, the  we ignore the implicit threat at our peril.  Polls continue to indicate that Minnesotans, particularly young voters, are oblivious to the pernicious underpinnings of the Voter ID amendment.  If you’re able bodied, enjoy discretionary time, and are the proud owner of a valid ID, you’re safe.  No problem.  Let’s face it – that’s an alibi, not a reason to ignore the clear and present danger.

For the elderly and American Indians who lack a valid state-issued ID (excludes a tribal ID), for people with disabilities, for those who never had or cannot afford the cost of a birth certificate, for those who don’t have time to go through the hoops, and for those who lack transportation to the county clerk’s office, the amendment is an insurmountable obstacle.  Prior restraint or fear of confrontation can be a barrier to felons who have a right to vote but an instinctive fear of encountering the System.

What Minnesotans should fear is the intrusion of a well-organized cadre of wheelers and dealers whose intent it is to skew the electoral process by barring access to the voting booth to those they fear will vote “wrong.”  For these manipulators this small but significant segment of the general populace is understandably inclined to vote for Democratic candidates who they believe will protect their hard won rights..

Everyone has heard the stories – the problem is we remain complacent, blithely ignoring reality as we wrap ourselves in the security of living in a good government state.   In our innocence we are disinclined to look for culprits or to probe the source of malicious maneuvering with the facts by the media.

The pernicious implications of the Voter ID and inherent but subtle.  The Voter ID Amendment is a lethal tool that doers of evil can and will use with abandon.

Young voters, ask your grandma or a visually impaired friend or an documented immigrant mom about the implications of passage of the Voter ID.  Learn the facts and cast a vote that’s informed not instinctive.  Seasoned voters, have one of those facts of life talks with the young people in your life.  This is not the time for sheepish surrender to the inevitability of voter suppression.

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Truth Lurks Behind Semantics as Court Deliberates Who Names Constitutional Amendments

It’s plain hokum. If you can’t convince ’em, confuse ’em. It’s an old political trick. But this time it won’t work ~ Harry S. Truman

We can hope that HST was prescient and that the thinly-veiled effort to influence the turnout of the next election – and those that follow – will wither under the scrutiny of the Supreme Court and the informed caution of Minnesota voters.  The Uptake coverage of yesterday’s proceedings captured a process that seemed to confuse, even irk, the jurists;  the sparring among opponents certainly confused this viewer.

The issue on the Court’s docket this week is not on the wording of the two proposed amendments but specifically on whether the Legislature or the Executive Branch (i.e. the Secretary of State) has the authority and responsibility to prescribe the wording on the ballot that will face Minnesota voters in November.  A sub-issue stems from Governor Dayton’s veto of the original legislation initiated by the IR majority;  this raises the question whether amendment titles are considered ordinary legislation, subject to gubernatorial veto, or if they come under the Legislature’s exclusive power to propose Constitution amendments for voter approval.

The Court’s questions were focused and piercing.  At times the members of the Court got a tad testy at the evasive maneuvers of the attorneys.

For example, Attorney Jordan Lorence, representing the IR lawmakers and other amendment advocates, argued at one point that the fact that Ritchie had not edited the title of the 2008 Legacy amendment indicates that leaving the legislative language intact is normal practice.  Solicitor General Alan Gilbert, representing Ritchie and Attorney General Lori Swanson, reminded the Court and observers that the 1919 law clearly designated the Secretary of State as the authority responsible for the ballot language. Gilbert projected that disruption of that process would put into question nearly a century of constitutional amendments to the Minnesota Constitution..

The courtroom drama masks the real issue that lurks in the wings in this and several other states. Republicans who hold the majority in the Minnesota Legislature see legislation by Constitutional Amendment as a viable option – at least for the duration of their tenure.

One change that was clearly on the minds of some of the members of the Court would be to resolve the current dilemma by dropping or postponing the proposed amendments altogether.  Given the enormity of the policy implications that echo the judgment faced by Solomon himself this does seem like an option.

The Court has indicated that a ruling will be forthcoming within a month, still leaving the four weeks preparation time the Secretary of State’s office and local organizers will need to implement changes as necessary.

 

To review the July 31 happenings in the Minnesota Supreme Court click on The Uptake’s video coverage.  Meanwhile, the individual amendments (nicknamed for now the “Marriage Amendment” and the “Voter ID Amendment” are best tracked as distinct issues, separated at birth in the Legislature, joined as they face the Judicial Branch as a clash between the Executive and Legislative branches of state government.

 

Minnesota Constitution-Amendments that balance continuity and change

If you only have a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.                                                                Abraham Maslow

 The proliferation of amendment proposals on the November 2012 ballot suggest this might be a mantra for the IR legislature.  The nails of Voter ID and same-sex marriage have long pierce the political skin of the right wing.  The Governor’s hammer and feisty DFL opposition have left no choice but to bring out the cudgel and start hammering.  Now it’s up to the voters.  Once again, a bit of history exposes how the amendment hammer has been brandished in Minnesota history.

Writing in the Minneapolis Star Tribune in January 2012, journalist Jim Ragsdale warns that it’s “hard to undo” an amendment that has been blessed by the voters.  Policy and budget decisions are normally embedded in laws passed by the Legislature and signed by the governor.  Laws can be changed when external factors intrude or political tides shift.  Amending the constitution, while allowing direct decisions by the people, locks in changes that are much harder revisit, much less change.   In Minnesota the process is straightforward:  If both houses of the Legislature approve a proposed constitutional amendment it goes directly onto the general election ballot, a relatively easy first stop..  In Wisconsin and Iowa,  Ragsdale notes a proposed amendment must be approved by two successive legislative sessions, with an election intervening, before it goes to the voters.  Some other states require a ‘super majority’ legislative vote.

 That puts a heavy burden on Minnesota voters.  Earlier in the current process, when legislators pushed for Constitutional amendments, Senate Majority Leader Dave Senjem (IR-Rochester) advised that “it does place an additional responsibility on us to be cautious, to be careful, to understand what the Constitution is for, to enter into these decisions with due consideration.”

So now it’s up to the voters to fully comprehend the proposed amendments and the possible trajectory of an approved Constitutional amendment.  As always, a look back at history can help.

Until 1898, the Constitution was amended by a simple majority of both houses of the Legislature, then ratified by a simple majority of the voters at the next general election. The total number of voters who cast any ballot at the election did not determine whether an amendment was approved or rejected.  In 1898 the rules changed – by a Constitutional amendment nicknamed the Brewer’s amendment – so that a Constitutional amendment, once approved by a simple of majority of both chambers of the Legislature at one session, had to be ratified by a majority of all the electors voting at the election whether or not the voter expressed an aye or nay on the proposal.  Historian Betty Kane, author of a definitive history Constitutional amendments, writes that “before 1889 it was ‘easy to get amendments proposed, and easy to get them ratified.  Once the state imposed stricter standard via the so-called ‘brewers’ amendment’ of 1898, the adoption of amendments dropped to less than one-third of its previous level.”

Over the decades some 213 proposed amendments have been made their way to the ballot box; 120 have passed.   In conjunction with Sunshine Week 2012 I dipped gingerly into the history amendments to the Minnesota Constitution.  Thanks to the resources of the Legislative Reference Library I got a glimmer of just how that hammer has been put to the test over the years.  Even a quick review of that history gives a voter pause – at the whims of Minnesota voters and the long-term consequences of their votes.

 During the past session legislators grappled with a jumble of proposed constitutional amendments that now present voters with two monumental opportunities to express their opposition or support for the Voter ID and the Marriage Amendment.  Information and misinformation abound.  In the end, voters must listen with care, consider the source, and way the consequences  — the goal is not to “win” but to assure that the Constitutional amendments achieve the challenge put forth by Betty Kane, the challenge to balance the forces of continuity and change.