Editor’s Column – October 2012by Tim Benjamin // October 10th, 2012
Of course there’s only one thing to talk about in October: the upcoming elections. The two proposed amendments to the Minnesota Constitution, restricting marriage to “one man, one woman” and requiring photo IDs for voters, are getting enormous attention. With 30 days to go, the political analysts are saying that both amendments are too close to call.
It seems like the marriage amendment should be anathema to both parties’ ideologies. The Republican Party, for instance, always wants less government in our lives. So why would Republicans favor more government involvement in this very personal area? Shouldn’t they be in favor of government staying out of personal rights and beliefs? If so, they should vote it down. And by the way, when marriage is only legal between one man and one woman, will divorce become illegal? Or does the amendment really mean that marriage is restricted to “one man and one woman at a time?”
The Democratic Party argues that government should not take away individual rights respecting marriage; two individuals committed to one another should have rights to the benefits of marriage.
Both parties are spending massive amounts of money to sway your vote on this issue, but I guess what I’m saying is that both parties should be in agreement on personal rights and freedom from government interference, and they should have avoided spending all that campaign money by never having let this become a ballot measure.
There are also many religious entities, like the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, as well as nonprofits, that seem to be spending funds to support and oppose the marriage amendment. It seems like it should be illegal for a religious nonprofit to fund a political agenda. What about the U.S. Constitution’s required “separation of church and state?”
As far as voter ID goes, the Democratic Party wants everyone to be able to walk into a polling place, identify themselves as they always have—by their signatures— and cast their votes. Should there be some restrictions? Yes, of course. I think those restrictions are already in place. The Minnesota election laws already have appropriate restrictions and serious laws against fraud. This has been proven to me by the two recent Minnesota recounts that overwhelmingly qualified a clean and equally fair election. There were only a few instances where felons mistakenly voted when they should not have, but those few votes wouldn’t have changed the results of the election. The millions of dollars that would be spent changing our election system would be much better spent on real fraud problems that we can prove exists. (Or at least that KSTP can prove.) The non-partisan Brennan Center at New York University School of Law has reported that “It is more likely that an individual will be struck by lightning than that he will impersonate another voter at the polls.”
It seems the Republican Party began focusing on this voter ID issue shortly after our last presidential election, where President Barak Obama rallied low-income voters to get out to the polls and vote. Low-income citizens, people with disabilities and other minority voters are more likely to be affected by this law, and their votes in 2008 may have put Obama over the top on that election.
The voter ID law, if passed, will be a very expensive proposition to institute and put a lot of municipal governments in a situation where they will have to spend taxpayer money that could be used for municipal projects and services instead of on new voter regulations. They’ll have to develop voter databases and create systems for election judges to access databases for verification.
There are too many unknowns about what all the human and financial costs for this will be. I would pay anything if I thought there was enough voter fraud to justify the cost. But of all the people I’ve asked, no one I can find has been asked to vote a particular way, or been offered a payout for their vote. It’s hard for me to imagine that any candidate would risk everything to buy some votes. Considering that most major elections are won and lost by thousands of votes, it would be very difficult for a candidate to purchase enough votes to win an election without any media or opposing candidates knowing and blowing the whistle.
Voter fraud was alleged throughout the South in the Jim Crow era, and resulted in poll taxes and voter registration literacy tests, but the real purpose was suppressing the votes of African Americans. Those injustices were corrected in the 20th century, and this is no time to create new ones. Have a good month, stay warm, and exercise your right to vote.