ALEC: Alive and Well and Pushing Voter Suppression In Minnesota

I have spent the greater part of my free time this summer and fall speaking to groups and anyone who would listen about the horrible constitutional amendment on voter suppression we here in Minnesota will have on our ballots on November 6.

Much of the attention in Minnesota has been on the “Marriage Amendment,” an admitted attempt by some in the Republican legislature that it was added simply to “turn out the base” of the Republican Party in November.  Minnesota already has a law that makes it illegal for same-sex couples to marry.  So even if the Marriage Amendment fails, there is no real gain in civil rights for same-sex couples in the Land of 10,000 Lakes.

With so much national attention (rightly so) focused on voter ID laws in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin as well as voter purges, reduced voting hours (Ohio) and all the new Jim Crow laws permeating our country in the 21st century, Minnesota’s voter suppression law has flown under the radar both in the state and at the national level.  Remember, Minnesota – Al Franken and Mark Dayton?  Two recent major elections that withstood the scrutiny of a hand recount without either side EVER alleging voter fraud.

A brief summary of where we are on this voter suppression amendment:

Minnesotans rally to Vote No on voter suppression.

Minnesota, which has led the nation in voter turnout for years, will be faced with implementing an entirely new voting system if this “voter ID” amendment passes.  Similar to other states, Minnesota’s house and senate flipped Republican in 2010.  However, Mark Dayton, a Democrat, was elected governor.  In addition to the Republican legislature shutting down the state government in 2011, they also by-passed the governor’s veto of a photo ID law and went the route of putting it on the ballot as a constitutional amendment.

The author of this amendment?  None other than former Minnesota Republican Secretary of State and state American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) chairperson Mary Kiffmeyer.  And oh, how skilled she is at manipulation and in understanding the ALEC and Karl Rove rules:  Dumb It Down. Confuse The Voter.  Play To People’s Fear.  For anyone who has paid attention to the voter ID laws that spread like wildfire across the country after 2010, we don’t have to connect the dots between ALEC-sponsored “cut and paste” legislation.

The ballot language is a simple two sentence statement that asks if the constitution should be amended so that all voters would have to present “valid photo ID’ before voting. Nowhere will voters see the impact of what happens if this amendment passes.  Gone will be Minnesota’s same day registration, which accounted for more than 500,000 voters in 2008.  Gone will be absentee voting, as we know it.  And the cost of implementing this whole new system will fall on Minnesota property tax owners, as this amendment is an unfunded mandate.

Minnesota runs the risk of becoming only the second state in the nation to put voter restriction in its constitution.  Mississippi being the other.  We run the risk of going from being the state with the highest turnout in the nation to a state that mirrors Mississippi.

Former Republican Governor Arne Carlson (god bless him) has been expending all of his energy canvasing the state urging people to Vote No.  In summer, he joined with former Vice President Walter Mondale and Independent Party favorite Tim Penny to blast those who put this on the ballot.

Earlier this year, the polling “in favor” of voter ID was as high as 80 percent.  Today, after massive efforts to educate Minnesotans about what this amendment really does, the approval rating is in the low 50s as we approach election day.

More than 60 newspapers throughout the state – ranging from local weekly papers to the Star-Tribune (Minneapolis) have come out against the amendment.  One of the state Supreme Court justices called it “bait and switch” and another voiced concern over whether the amendment is constitutional.  Yes, the Koch Brothers and ALEC have turned the world so upside down, that we here in Minnesota are being asked to amend our constitution with something that may ultimately be unconstitutional.

I urge anyone who reads this and lives in Minnesota or knows someone who lives in Minnesota to go to or urge them to go to the League of Women Voters web site.  They have done an outstanding job trying to educate the public on the appalling impacts that this ALEC-funded amendment would create.

Another outstanding video put out by Election Protection sums it up below.

The imprint of ALEC and the Koch Brothers is everywhere across this country.  We here in Minnesota have a chance to stop them from sending us back to Jim Crow days of voter suppression.  As you await Tuesday’s national outcome, keep your eyes focused on us here in Minnesota to find out how this amendment passage turns out.

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