Tag Archives: voter ID

2013 Legislative To-Do List [UPDATED]

The 2013 legislative session kicks off next week, and there’s a long list of things that the newly-minted Democratic majorities should look at as their top priorities.

#1:  Fix the budget.  It’s long past time for the folks in St. Paul to get on with it and take care of the structural problems in the state budget.  No more stalling, no more half-measures, no more one-time fixes or gimmicks to solve this year’s $1.1 billion projected deficit.  This means:

1a.) Get a plan in place to pay back the school shifts.  My talks with local school district officials indicate that they are more interested in certainty at this point, so we need not necessarily pay back the entire $1.1 billion still remaining (this is on top of the $1.1 billion deficit) in one budget cycle.  A bipartisan commitment, though, to repaying $275 million a year for the next four years should be sufficient.

1b.) Real tax reform.  The elements required here are pretty simple, but the devil is in the details.  First, broaden the base of the sales tax by removing distorting exemptions on some categories of goods and services — it should be possible to broaden the base, lower the rate, and still end up revenue-neutral to revenue-positive.  Second, recognize that the sales tax changes are regressive, so cut income taxes on lower- and middle-income taxpayers.  Third, remove unnecessary tax expenditures (credits and deductions) that essentially function as handouts via the tax code.  This should free up additional revenue that can be applied to across-the-board rate reductions in both the individual income and corporate income taxes.  And that’s all before addressing our overly complex property tax system.  It may be too much to ask legislators to fix that in 2013, too, but we can hope.

1c.) Accountability in state spending.  State government needs to do a much better job of measuring effectiveness of state programs, and requiring reforms for programs that don’t measure up.  Additionally, there are programs that just aren’t needed any more.  It’s time to end them, now.  That said, we should be wary of sound-bite proposals like legislative Republicans proposed last session that imposed across-the-board cuts without an analysis of the work required.

#2:  Improve the job-creation environment in the state.  An odd-year bonding bill seems unlikely at this point, but the Legislature can take some concrete steps to improve conditions for job creation in the state.  A commitment to infrastructure is paramount.  For starters, the legislature can begin indexing the gasoline tax to inflation in order to maintain its buying power. (Minnesota’s gasoline tax, even with the increase passed after the 35W bridge collapse, has less purchasing power than it did 20 years ago and our road and bridge construction needs are much more significant.)  Renewing our commitment to our public universities is vital as well.  Even though enrollment is up 23,000 over that time, funding for the University of Minnesota system and MnSCU has declined back to Ventura Administration levels.  This is a significant factor in the doubling of college tuition over the last decade.  In return, those institutions should provide concrete plans on how they can reform their operations and become more efficient.  The U of M, in particular, has some administrative bloat that needs to be addressed.

#3:  Support implementation of the Affordable Care Act.  Minnesota’s health insurance exchange, required as part of the Affordable Care Act, is scheduled to go live in October to enable enrollment in plans starting on January 1, 2014.  It is critical that the Department of Commerce have the necessary resources to finish development and provide ongoing support for the exchange.

#4:  Government accountability, campaign finance and election reform.  There’s a gaping hole in the finance disclosures that our elected officials have to provide.  If they work as an independent contractor or consultant, legislators don’t have to disclose who they work for.  That’s a problem, as demonstrated during the campaign in the case of Senator David Hann.  Unlike some, I don’t have a problem with Hann chairing the committee with critical oversight on health insurance while being licensed to sell it.  But I do have a problem with not knowing who’s paying Hann’s salary outside of the Capitol so I can fairly judge his actions in the legislature.  Same goes for anyone else.  It’s time to require folks in those categories to disclose who they’re getting paid by (over a limit, say $2,500).  From a campaign finance perspective, it’s time to bring some additional sunshine into the process and require additional disclosures.  I would recommend moving to a four times per year model (quarterly in odd years, then Q1, pre-primary, pre-general, and year-end in even years).  Finally, even though the Voter ID constitutional amendment failed, there are things that can be done in the realm of election law to improve perceptions of fraud incidence and improve access to the polls.  Such provisions should include the introduction of early voting (how about the two Saturdays before Election Day), automatic voter registration of holders of drivers licenses and identification cards, and a close look at the electronic poll book concept as an alternative to voter ID requirements.

Certainly, these won’t be the only items that come up — social issues like a push for recognition of same-sex marriage will undoubtedly be discussed (and eventually, I believe it should and will be passed) — but these are what should be at the top of the list.

[UPDATE, 1/4]:  Let me clarify a few points regarding Hann’s relationship with Boys & Tyler Financial.  Hann has completed his licensing requirements with the state of Minnesota, but has not been enrolled as an agent by an insurance company.  Until that has been completed, Hann cannot sell insurance in the state.  Hann works on a contract basis with Boys & Tyler, and claims to earn no compensation for that relationship. (Under current law, Hann would not be required to disclose any income earned on a contract basis.)  This seems to be an arrangement designed to fight efforts at disclosure, and leads me to believe that all contract employment/consulting relationships should be disclosed instead of those surpassing the dollar limit originally indicated in the post.

[State Capitol picture courtesy of Minnesota House of Representatives Public Information Services.]


More Than Just Ernie: The Best of Brick City Blog in 2012

It’s been another great year here at Brick City Blog.  Readership continues to grow, up 2.5x over 2011 and we tripled the number of e-mail subscribers.  As we prepare to flip the calendar to 2013, let’s look back at some of the best posts on the blog this year.

This year, the blog received a lot of traffic reading about the travails of State Representative Ernie Leidiger.

In February, we broke the story about Leidiger paying for a speeding ticket using campaign donations.  This was the most-read post on the site all year, was picked up by the Star Tribune and Pioneer Press, and spawned complaints that led to $800 in fines from the Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board and the Office of Administrative Hearings.  Read it here:

Did Ernie Leidiger use campaign funds to pay off his speeding ticket?

But that wasn’t the only rough patch that Rep. Leidiger hit during the year.  Leidiger’s business activities came under significant scrutiny, first for a series of lawsuits his companies had lost and failed to pay the settlements for.

Meanwhile, Brothers Office Furniture lost a lawsuit and was ordered to pay $7,500 in damages in April 2011 and still hasn’t paid up (Case 27-CV-11-11245).  Per state law, such judgments are supposed to paid within 30 days.  The plaintiff in this case has had to go to court to get a writ of execution in an attempt to collect from Leidiger’s company — as of yet, unsuccessfully, as the judgment is still listed as active in the state court system.

And, that’s not the only lawsuit the Leidiger businesses have endured recently.  Judgments against Brothers Recycling & Liquidation ($32,389,90 from May 2011, also resulting in a writ of execution, Case 73-CV-11-4601) and Brothers Office Furniture & Liquidation ($1,415.28 from November 2011, Case 27-CV-12-3581) are also unpaid at this time.  Total it up and you’ve got over $40,000 in unpaid legal judgments against the Brothers family of businesses.

From: Hypocrisy, eviction, lawsuits and porn: what does the business career of Rep. Ernie Leidiger mean?

Later, it was discovered that Leidiger had $144,000 in unpaid taxes here in Minnesota and a long history of unpaid taxes when he was a California resident.  Finally, we were able to confirm that Leidiger had defaulted on his government-backed Small Business Administration loan.

Under the terms of the Patriot Express loan program that Leidiger took advantage of, the federal government guaranteed up to $450,000 of the loan.  The final amount that the government ended up paying related to this default was redacted by the SBA.

What is surprising is how quickly Jelco Parts went into default after receiving the loan.  SBA documents show that Jelco Parts, Inc. was considered in default by its lender, Crow River Bank, by July 25, 2010.  That’s only 11 months after the loan was finalized (August 26, 2009).  Typically, loan payments have to be delinquent for at least nine months in order for a loan to be considered in default (closing the business can also trigger a default, and documents from the lender in March 2011 requesting that the SBA pay off the remaining loan amount indicate the business was considered closed at that time.

From: Leidiger defaults on SBA loan; taxpayers left holding the bill

And that still wasn’t all.  In August, Leidiger made headlines for “getting loud” at a League of Women Voters voter ID forum at a senior living facility in Waconia.  Leidiger’s conflict with the LWV was the catalyst for another significant controversy in the County this election cycle — the refusal of many Republican candidates to appear at LWV forums.  This was a move we did not endorse.

What these four candidates are doing is demonstrating yet again that they’re not ready for the offices they seek.  Apparently, the forces in power at the Carver County GOP are immune to the lessons of history.  Just two years ago, they formally endorsed two challengers (and had a third refuse endorsement) to incumbent commissioners, saying that the Board wasn’t conservative enough.  Those three challengers all lost, by an average of 10 points.

Just last month, the same group of folks that spawned these four Commissioner candidates backed one of 2010′s losers, Bruce Schwichtenberg, in a primary challenge against the Senate Deputy Majority Leader and Tax Committee Chair, Sen. Julianne Ortman.  When the votes were tallied, Schwichtenberg lost by nearly 17 points.

The lesson to be learned here is that running further and further to the right — even in a conservative area like Carver County — is self-defeating.  It’s hard to get elected and it’s even harder to govern if you’re only willing to preach to a smaller and smaller choir of true believers.

From: Carver County GOP Commissioner candidates: talking to themselves

And we tested the claims of those GOP candidates — that the LWV forums were biased — and proved them to be utterly without merit.  Fortunately, the good folks of Carver County largely saw through these charades.

Here are the six questions that were asked (not including the opening and closing statements):

  1. Considering the decrease in aid from the State, what are your priorities for Carver County?
  2. Carver has been a rural county.  How do we maintain the rural/urban balance?
  3. The Carver County Community Development Agency (CDA) is responsible for community and economic development in the County.  Please assess the CDA’s record and suggest ways that it could change its operations.
  4. Do you feel that the decision to underwrite $10.8 million in bonds for the Oak Grove City Center project in Norwood-Young America was the correct one given the current economic conditions and the significant opposition of residents?
  5. Are you in favor of keeping the Public Health, Land, and Water Services Department in Chaska or moving them outside of Chaska and why?
  6. The 2011 County budget includes a 1.5% pay raise for county employees.  How do you justify this given the current economic environment?

These questions don’t seem “decidedly leftist” to me, nor do they assume a leftist world view.  In fact, two of the questions directly challenge spending decisions made by the then-current County Board.  All six questions allowed Republican candidates to talk about their vision of government and to advocate for the spending cuts they desired.

So what we’re seeing here from Messrs. Workman, Long, Beaudette, and Walter isn’t a legitimate gripe about the League putting its thumb on the scale.  It’s an attempt to duck real debate and to only have to talk to those within the conservative bubble.

From: Feckless and gutless

The two constitutional amendments that appeared on the November ballot were a hot topic of discussion.  We looked at Voter ID in September, and found it wanting.

A quick review of the numbers is in order.  Since 2008, there have been about 150 convictions for illegal voting in Minnesota.  That’s less than 0.01% of all votes cast in that time.  Practically all of these convictions have been felons voting before their rights have been restored.   Both the amendment and S.F. 509 are silent on this issue.  As one’s criminal record status is not any of the valid ID cards, passing this amendment would do nothing to address these problems. …

Meanwhile, the Minnesota Secretary of State’s office estimates that as many as 215,000 registered voters don’t have ID that would qualify under the requirements of the amendment and proposed enabling legislation.  That’s over 10% of the number of voters in 2010, over 7% of the voters in 2008.

We should not risk disenfranchising tens of thousands of citizens to prevent fraud that is almost non-existent.

From: How the Voter ID amendment could change voting in this state

In October we ran a guest post from Leanne Pouliot Kunze discussing her faith as a Catholic woman and why she felt it was imperative from that perspective to Vote No.

When I hear our young adults talk about this marriage amendment, it gives me hope.  Many compare it to historical accounts of various civil rights movements such as slavery and voting rights.   I truly hope its our generation of faithful Christians who courageously vote no and defeat this hurtful and discriminatory amendment, but if not, I trust it will not be long for the next generation to correct it and be on the right side of history.

It took courageous white men and women to extend human rights to blacks.

It took courageous Catholics to extend the Sacrament of Matrimony to inter-faith couples.

It took courageous Catholics to extend the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony to inter-racial couples.

It took courageous men to extend human rights to women.

And it continues to take courageous citizens, straight or otherwise, to stand up for the civil rights of everyone!

It is time for courageous Catholics and others to stand up and fight for the rights and freedom for ALL citizens to enter into a civil contract regardless of their sexual orientation. Our religious belief regarding homosexual acts should not interfere with our religious belief of justice, dignity of human life and Free Will of every individual.

From: Guest Post: Another Catholic Voting No

Another important topic was the protracted process of approving state funding for a new Minnesota Vikings stadium.  Our most-read post from that debate tossed the yellow flag in the direction of a half-baked, last-minute funding plan by the legislative Republican leadership.

The press conference where the outlines of this new proposal were sketched out was not confidence-inspiring, either.  At times, the legislators contradicted themselves, and to say the details of what could or could not be counted as “infrastructure” as part of the deal were fuzzy would be an understatement.  Team officials have been working for a decade to get a new stadium, and it’s only now — one day after legislative leaders State Sen. David Senjem and State Rep. Kurt Zellers said the session would be adjourned — that the “silver bullet” legislation comes out of the woodwork?

Zellers, in particular, continues to be a profile in political timidity on the stadium issue. After saying that he would let the legislative process play out and demanding that DFLers deliver one-half of the required votes — 34 votes — in the House, he’s gone back on his word.  The bill moved through House committees as Zellers demanded, and Minority Leader State Rep. Paul Thissen indicated he had the required 34 votes in his caucus for the bill, meaning that Zellers only needed to provide 34 of his party’s 72 members to get the bill passed.  Yet, he won’t move the bill to the floor.

From: Killing it softly: Republicans and the Vikings stadium

Finally, another of our most popular posts of the year touched on the intersection of popular culture and politics.

The constant theme of the Nolan Batman trilogy, in fact, is about how all people need to act nobly, look beyond themselves, and take their society back.  Wayne has an unfailing belief in the people of Gotham City and Batman is a symbol meant to inspire Gothamites to do the right thing.

In Batman Begins, Wayne as Batman — along with policeman James Gordon and assistant district attorney Rachel Dawes — challenge the corrupt Gotham City establishment.  In The Dark Knight, Wayne/Batman hopes that newly elected District Attorney Harvey Dent can be the symbol that helps push Gotham into a new era, by putting honest and worthy people into the existing social structures and positions of power.  We also see in TDK that the two boatloads of Gotham citizens don’t succumb to their fear and blow each other up as the Joker intended.  Finally, in TDKR, we see this notion brought forward again as the entire GCPD — once racked by corruption — comes together to try and stop Bane.  Multiple characters, most notably Selina Kyle and Deputy Police Commissioner Foley, turn away from their narrow self-interest and instead fight for all of Gotham.

From: The politics of The Dark Knight Rises: more complex and less ideological than you might think

Thanks to all of my readers, and the growing cadre of regular commentators who have made this a lively little corner of the internet.  I look forward to continuing the work here in 2013 and beyond!

Chanhassen LWV Voter ID presentation set for September 18

What’s this hubbub been about?  Well, you can find out on soon.  The Eastern Carver County League of Women Voters will be holding another presentation on the Voter ID amendment on Tuesday, September 18.

Gwen Myers of the Minnesota League of Women Voters will be presenting at 7 p.m. at the Chanhassen Rec Center (2310 Coulter Boulevard).  Additionally, a representative from the Minnesota Secretary of State’s office will be available to answer questions on existing election law (this representative will not be taking a position on the amendment).

How the Voter ID amendment could change voting in this state [UPDATED]

In the thread on Ernie Leidiger’s ill-tempered appearance at a League of Women Voters Voter ID event, we’ve heard a lot of spin from an amendment supporter about what would be required should the amendment passes.  Let’s unpack what’s really at stake here.

Here’s the text of the amendment:

This amendment would result in four key changes to the existing process.  Let’s walk through each of them, and explain where it’s possible that citizens may be disenfranchised.

1.  “All voters voting in person must present valid government-issued photographic identification before receiving a ballot.”

The amendment itself does not indicate what qualifies as “valid government-issued photographic identification”.  If the amendment passes, that will be determined by enabling legislation that will need to be passed before the November 2013 municipal and school elections.

The Republican legislative majorities attempted to pass such a bill (S.F. 509) in the last session, vetoed by Governor Mark Dayton.  How did they define “valid government-issued photographic identification”?  Well, they only permitted the following forms of identification:  a drivers license, a state identification card, a newly created “voter identification card”, or a tribal identification card.  Residents of nursing homes without a form of ID listed above with their current address could use that expired ID plus a certified form from the nursing home’s administrator.  What’s notable here?  Student IDs are out and federally issued passports and military IDs aren’t good enough.

2. “The state must issue photographic identification at no charge to an eligible voter who does not have a form of identification meeting the requirements of this section.”

This sounds good at first blush.  Who’s opposed to “free IDs”, right?  But it ignores the fact that you need to provide supplementary documents to get the “free” voter ID card from the state.  (And it’s not really “free”, after all, as the cost is being born by all of us as taxpayers.)  The costs and the hassle of acquiring these supplementary documents can be a real impediment.  For instance, a woman may have to provide a birth and a marriage certificate — total cost, if both are Minnesota documents, of $35.  Plus, that woman is going to have to take time out during the business day to acquire those documents.

The other point here is that the amendment and S.F. 509 are essentially silent on how folks who have difficulty moving about (like the elderly or disabled) are going to acquire these IDs.  The Carter-Baker Report, which local conservatives have grown fond of citing, calls for robust efforts by states (including mobile teams that actively go out to these populations to issue IDs) to ensure everyone gets what they need to maintain their right to vote.  Yet, their bill doesn’t call for any of that.  One wonders if they’ve really read the report or just glommed on to the “Jimmy Carter likes Voter ID” talking point.

3. “A voter unable to present government-issued photographic  identification must be permitted to submit a provisional ballot. A provisional ballot must only be counted if the voter certifies the provisional ballot in the manner provided by law… All voters, including those not voting in person must be subject to substantially equivalent identity and eligibility verification prior to a ballot being cast or counted.”

If you show up at the polls and forget your ID, your vote won’t be counted right away.  Per S.F. 509, you will instead cast a “provisional ballot”.  Under a provisional ballot scenario, your vote will not be counted unless — within seven calendar days of the election — you appear before the county auditor or municipal clerk with an appropriate form of ID.

The “substantially equivalent identity and eligibility verification” clause is where things get hairy.  S.F. 509 does allow for provisional ballots to be counted under certain circumstances without one of the four forms of ID noted above.  Passports and military IDs with a current address listed are sufficient under this provision, as are student IDs if accompanied by the appropriate documentation from the college or university.  This, of course, begs the question of why they just can’t be accepted at the polls on Election Day instead of making the voter make a second trip to fully cast their ballot.

4. Potential impacts on same-day voter registration and absentee balloting

The amendment makes no call out for same-day voter registration or absentee balloting, so the details for each of these provisions will be subject to the enabling legislation.  These ballots are subject to the same regulations as in-person ballots.  S.F. 509 indicates that same-day registrations will be subject to the same criteria as provisional ballots, so people attempting to register will either have to provide a drivers license, state ID card, voter ID card, tribal ID card, passport, military ID, or student ID with appropriate supporting documentation.  This eliminates the ability to use utility bills and apartment leases as proof of residence as well as eliminating the option to have another voter in your precinct vouch for your eligibility.

Meanwhile, S.F. 509 indicates that absentee voters will have to provide either their drivers license, state ID or voter ID number plus their Social Security Number in order to be approved for an absentee ballot.  Today, those ID numbers are not required — verification of an absentee ballot request can be made by verifying name, address, and date of birth against the voter registration system.

What’s this all going to fix again, anyway?

A quick review of the numbers is in order.  Since 2008, there have been about 150 convictions for illegal voting in Minnesota.  That’s less than 0.01% of all votes cast in that time.  Practically all of these convictions have been felons voting before their rights have been restored.   Both the amendment and S.F. 509 are silent on this issue.  As one’s criminal record status is not any of the valid ID cards, passing this amendment would do nothing to address these problems.

Another frequent problem cited are the postal verification cards (PVCs).   PVCs are generated by same-day voter registrations.  After the election, non-forwardable cards are sent to those voters to confirm their registration.  Those that are undeliverable (most for valid reasons, such as the voter moving) are returned for further investigation by county auditors.  If the auditors, upon further research, are unable to explain why the cards were undeliverable, they are required by law to turn them over to their county attorney for potential prosecution.  In 2010, this process resulted in 399 voters (0.019%) being turned over to prosecutors — and based on the number of convictions reported above, many of those voters were ultimately not proven to have voted illegally.

Meanwhile, the Minnesota Secretary of State’s office estimates that as many as 215,000 registered voters don’t have ID that would qualify under the requirements of the amendment and proposed enabling legislation.  That’s over 10% of the number of voters in 2010, over 7% of the voters in 2008.

We should not risk disenfranchising tens of thousands of citizens to prevent fraud that is almost non-existent.

[UPDATE]:  Secretary of State Mark Ritchie believes the changes to same-day registration and absentee balloting may be more severe than what I have posted here.

It Might Get Loud: Ernie Leidiger attends a voter ID forum at a senior housing facility [UPDATED]

Last week, the Eastern Carver County League of Women Voters held a forum on the Voter ID constitutional amendment at a senior housing facility in Waconia.  The Chanhassen Villager details what happened when State Rep. Ernie Leidiger decided to drop in on the event.

“He was loud, boisterous, argumentative and bullying,” said Glenda Noble, an LWV member who helped arrange the presentation. “His manner and tone was not appropriate. We were guests in a facility that houses older people. The public is welcome, but we expect them to behave.”

For his part, Leidiger doesn’t even really dispute the description of his behavior.

Leidiger, however, said he was just being “loud” and the LWV should be held accountable for the information presented.

And for good measure, he added, the LWV are “pathetic partisan hacks”.  The full LWV response (in the form of a letter to the editor) is here.

The best response for this sort of behavior by an elected official was provided by the conservative blogger over at the Carver County Current:  WTF, Ernie?!

Reasonable people can have different opinions about this constitutional amendment.  When you’re an elected official, though, you need to demonstrate some decorum and understand that you’re going to have sometimes deal with folks who don’t agree with you.

(It’s no wonder, with this sort of attitude and behavior, that Leidiger was one of the least productive members of the GOP majority in the House last legislative session.  Of the 31 GOP freshmen, Leidiger was 29th in bills chief authored and tied for 22nd in bills signed into law — with 1.  Building relationships is critical to your success in the chamber, and going around acting like a bully in a senior citizens home isn’t going to make you any friends.)

The LWV will be having another Voter ID presentation at 6:15 p.m. on Tuesday, September 11 at the Chanhassen Library.  If Rep. Leidiger chooses to attend that meeting, he should turn the volume down and act like an adult.

[UPDATE]:  Check out our complete archive of Ernie Leidiger coverage.

[UPDATE #2, 8/31]:  Leidiger has released a statement regarding the incident.  It reads:

The League of Woman Voters must think that Minnesota Nice means you have to swallow anything they spew out including lies, misinformation, and fear-mongering, without anyone questioning their facts or motives. They want you to wear gray, fall in line, and only believe their point of view after they scare you. This is also behavior true of those in the progressive movement in the Democrat Party. So when someone questions them and they don’t like it, then their response is … well, he’s a bully! If standing up for truth means being labeled a bully by this organization, then it’s time they are exposed for who they really are, a left wing, progressive lap-dog group that has lost all credibility. How pathetic, they stoop to such disgusting behavior, blatantly spreading fear in our elderly population in these meetings, using propaganda created by the biased Brennen Law Center.

I’m responding to the League’s letter about me challenging them on their stance on the voter ID amendment at a recent public meeting at an assisted living facility in Waconia. I attended and what I heard was astounding. The League wasn’t there providing information, they were conducting a take-no-prisoners, frontal assault on their audience using propaganda and fear tactics on the elderly to shut down the amendment.

The main speaker was from Minneapolis not a local League member. Her slick speech and video was fear-mongering, distortions, and made up scenarios designed to frighten people to vote against the amendment. The League is out trying to defeat it at all costs. One really has to wonder why they are so adamantly against verification, why anyone could be against it. I often think that maybe fraud is worse than any of us ever imagined. Why else do progressives fight such a common sense initiative which is passing everywhere across the nation with excellent results. Why is the League silent about views from those in favor of the amendment. Why do they refuse to acknowledge the origins of the initiative, the bi-partisan Help America Vote Act (HAVA) of 2002, and the subsequent Jimmy Carter/Howard Baker Commission results of 2005 which fully recommended voter ID verification. Instead, the League supported Mark Ritchie and the Democrats to throw out the amendment or change the title on the ballot to confuse voters. Thankfully, the Minnesota Supreme Court struck down the overt and highly illegal attempt of the Democrat Administration to confuse the voters by changing language of the amendment.

The League is against the amendment. They are wrong. Minnesotans will vote yes on the amendment this November and integrity will be restored in our voting system.


Carver County GOPer loves recycling — at least when it comes to discredited talking points

Earth Day may have been a few days ago, but Carver County Republican Secretary Vince Beaudette shows us his fidelity to Mother Earth in this week’s Chaska Herald by recycling long-since discredited talking points in relation to the 2008 U.S. Senate election between Norm Coleman and Al Franken.  Let’s look at a couple of the gems in Beaudette’s letter:

The Minneapolis director of elections said 32 absentee ballots were found in an election worker’s car a day or two after the election, and all votes happened to go to Al Franken.

This is one of the long-lasting myths of the 2008 election, but it’s just not true.  Here’s a summary of what happened with those 32 ballots gleaned from accounts in MinnPost and the St. Paul Pioneer Press:

  • Minnesota law requires absentee ballots to counted at the precinct place the voter would have normally voted at if they were able to vote in-person on Election Day.
  • Absentee ballots for Minneapolis are returned not to city officials, but county officials.  On Election Night, a batch of overseas ballots came in late, and were only delivered from Hennepin County officials to Minneapolis officials at 7 p.m., one hour before the polls closed.
  • Minneapolis had 13 certified precinct support judges who were responsible for delivering the absentee ballots to the 131 individual precinct locations in the city.
  • Because of the late arrival of this last batch of absentee ballots, 28 ballots were not able to be delivered to the precincts before the polls had closed and the vote-counting process had began.  No additional absentee ballots can be introduced at the precinct once that has happened.
  • Those 28 ballots, as well as four absentee ballots that were erroneously not opened and counted at the precinct level that night were returned to City Hall that evening, where they were securely stored until they could be counted in the presence of a judge and attorneys from both the Franken and Coleman campaigns.  Ballots were never found or stored in cars for days, as Beaudette alleges.
  • Of the 32 votes, 17 went to Franken and 8 to Coleman.  The other seven ballots were for third-party candidates or had no vote for the Senate race at all.

Here’s another classic:

Precincts in Two Harbors and Partridge Township sent Al Franken a net gain of another 350 votes, claiming miscounts, in the days immediately following the election.

Miscounts in elections are actually fairly common.  In 2006, an election won by Amy Klobuchar by a double-digit margin, her vote total changed by over 2,000 votes from the initial canvass to the final results.

Here’s an example of how this occurs, from the Pioneer Press story:

Like many stories that emerged during the recount, the Pine County error became something nefarious through the prism of the campaign and the national media. But it has an innocent explanation, one that the secretary of state’s office spelled out for callers.

Similar to Buhl, Pine County results must be written down, read over the phone and then typed in. Terry Lovgren, a county worker of 23 years, thinks she made the error.

Lovgren’s Election Day was fairly typical — hectic and stressful. She started around 8 a.m. and spent much of the day driving late-arriving absentee ballots to polling places in the farthest reaches of the county.

In the evening, she and Auditor Cathy Clemmer manned a computer, typing in the results from handwritten forms from 47 precincts that were piling up on her desk.

“We just start ripping and entering,” Lovgren said.

In rural Partridge Township, Coleman got 143 votes, edging out Franken’s 129 votes. That’s what the machine tape read at the end of the night and what was written on a ledger that was hand-delivered to the county offices in Pine City.

But that’s not what was typed into the county’s computer and transmitted to the state. Those figures showed Franken with a mere 29 votes.

The numbers sat there until the county canvass the Thursday after the election. Lovgren was taking notes while someone read results.

“Nope, that’s wrong,” someone piped up when Partridge Township was read.

“I felt ill,” Lovgren said. “I was sick that I had made that mistake.”

Nothing nefarious here, just a human mistake that was caught and corrected by the processes in place already.  In a close election, such mistakes are magnified and blown out of proportion by partisans looking to score political points.

The worst part about these consistent attempts by Beaudette (and others) to recycle these stories is that they know by now that these stories are false.  Yet they keep repeating them.

The question is:  why do Beaudette and those of his ilk feel they can’t make the case for voter ID legislation based on the facts?  Why do they have to keep repeating these lies?

Nohealthcareville and other “highlights” of the 2011 legislative session

Well, that was fun, wasn’t it?  We’re a couple of days downstream from the end of the official 2011 legislative session, and it’s a marvel to look back at the last four months and see everything that didn’t get done. 

Republican majorities in the House and Senate offered no meaningful compromise from their pre-session position, while Governor Dayton changed the substance of his proposal significantly.

Let’s look back at some of the budget bills that were passed (and vetoed) and some of key provisions.  All of these were voted for by the Carver County legislative contingent of Sen. Julianne Ortman, Rep. Ernie Leidiger, and Rep. Joe Hoppe.

These sorts of budget provisions are not in character with what has made Minnesota great place to live for decades.  The Republican majorities are undercutting the things that have given Minnesota a competitive advantage — well-educated people, well-maintained infrastructure, and a safety net that protects the most vulnerable in our society.  You can’t out-Mississippi Mississippi, and we shouldn’t even try.

It wasn’t just the budget that made news during the session, though.  Despite their alleged focus on jobs and the budget, Republicans used their majorities to jam through numerous bills on divisive social issues.

And, of course, no recap of the session would be complete without a reminder of Leidiger’s Bradlee Dean fiasco last week.

These are not the values that Carver County residents believe in.  We don’t believe in dividing.  We don’t believe in focusing on the sideshow while critical problems go unaddressed.  Let’s hope that cooler heads will prevail over the next month and both sides can agree to a sensible, balanced solution to our budget crisis.

(Cartoon from the StarTribune via about.com.)

Let the people decide?

With the flurry of constitutional amendments that have been proposed by the Republican majorities over the two weeks, you’d think that they had already taken care of all of the other problems that face Minnesota.  Of course, that’s not the case. 

While the budget still sits $5 billion out-of-balance and conference committees have failed to deliver final versions of the omnibus spending bills, Republican state legislators have spent considerable effort in trying to enshrine their agenda as part of the state constitution (because they don’t have sufficient support to do it the traditional way). 

The rallying cry behind putting these items on the ballot is “Let the people decide!”

Sounds good, at first blush.  But do these amendments really give people power to decide?  I would argue they don’t.  In fact, in many cases they weaken the power of future elections to impact the course of the state.  The power of the vote you cast will be diminished by these provisions.

Let’s look at a couple of examples.  For instance, let’s look at the amendments to make the prohibition on gay marriage part of the state constitution.  If the amendment fails, gay marriage will be illegal.  If the amendment passes, gay marriage will be really, really  illegal.  That’s not really much of a “choice”, is it?

Another example is a  call for term limits on state legislators.  Again, less choice for you as a voter.  It’s not as if voters have had problems turning out incumbents they were dissatisfied with in the last three election cycles, but the GOP wants to remove your ability to retain effective representatives.

There’s also a couple of spending amendments that are highly problematic.  Sen. Julianne Ortman and Rep. Joe Hoppe are pushing a bill that would limit state spending to 98 percent of the forecast revenue in the next biennium under current law.  If applied to this session, that limit would be 98 percent of $33.5 billion, or $32.8 billion.  Another proposal, supported by Rep. Ernie Leidiger, would require a supermajority of 60 percent in the Legislature in order to raise taxes.

These amendments would tie the hands of future Legislators and make it difficult for them to respond to serious financial crises — just see how similar provisions have worked in California  (perpetually in desperate financial trouble) and Colorado (where voters had to repeal many of the provisions in order to save funding for state services).

By doing so, it weakens your vote in the future as well, because your representatives won’t be able to pull all the levers of government should the need arise.  The power of the legislative majority (be it Democratic or Republican) will be reduced significantly.

To some people, of course, that sounds like a good thing.  But what it will really do is to ensure a continuing decline in critical state services.  First, let’s keep in mind that legislative Republicans couldn’t even live by the 98 percent rule this session — both the House and Senate GOP budgets have spending targets of over $34 billion — at least $1 billion more than would be allowed by the Ortman/Hoppe amendment.  If they can’t play by their own rules now, why are we to believe that it’s going to work in the future?

Second, look at what happened in states that have similar caps.  Colorado had a 79% increase of their roads rated in substandard condition by the federal Department of Transportation and had dropped to 48th in the nation on that metric at the time voters rescinded the most extreme of the state’s spending and tax limitations.  Those amendments literally starved the state’s infrastructure spending.  If you like how Minnesota’s roads have crumbled over the last decade, then this is the bill for you!

This isn’t the path we should be moving Minnesota down.  We should expect that our elected representatives do their job and make the hard decisions instead of punting.

Allegations aren’t facts

Carver County GOP Chair Paul Zunker has responded to my post regarding Sen. Julianne Ortman’s support of Voter ID legislation.

Zunker lists off the usual litany of allegations that Republicans have relied on in an attempt to create the impression that there is a problem with voter fraud.  But the facts remain as I stated in every post I have written about this issue:

In fact, nearly every documented case of voter fraud in this state during the past decade can be traced back to felons attempting to vote before completing their probation, many of whom did so because they weren’t notified about the status of their voting rights.  The DFL-controlled Legislature passed a solution supported by every County Attorney in the state during the last legislative session:  send a letter to felons that clearly state whether or not they are eligible to vote.  The Republican Governor vetoed the bill.

Those are the facts.  No charges have been filed in the Crow Wing county case, no real evidence has actually emerged about thousands of dead people voting, and the alleged U of M vouching case has produced no charges.

Democrats and Republicans have spent literally millions of dollars over the last two election cycles litigating votes in the Franken-Coleman and Dayton-Emmer races.  The finest legal minds on both sides of the aisle have dug through this state’s voting records, and haven’t found any.  Don’t take it from me — take it from Fritz Knaak, Norm Coleman’s attorney, who said the following on TPT’s Almanac following the 2008 recount:

We were looking for fraud, but we didn’t find any.

Republicans could fix the only voter fraud issue that actually exists in Minnesota by adopting the legislation passed by Democrats in the last legislative session.  But instead, they are choosing to make it more difficult for Minnesotans to vote (and let there be no doubt, these provisions will result in fewer Minnesotans voting), and spending millions of dollars to solve a problem that doesn’t exist.  Ortman and the rest of legislative Republicans may have the best of intentions here, but they’re going way too far here.  We have real problems that need solving — we shouldn’t be wasting time on trumped-up ideological battles that don’t do anything to move our state forward.  

[As an aside, Zunker’s post uses the phrase “want to make grandma eat dog food” in quotes shortly after an actual quote from my post.  Let me be perfectly clear:  I have never used that phrase, much less say or imply that is a Republican position.]

Ortman votes to disenfranchise voters

Sen. Julianne Ortman voted yesterday in favor of S.F. 509, voter ID legislation that would require voters to show a valid picture ID at the polling place when voting.  It would also end the practice of same-day registration using a utility bill or other non-drivers license proof of residence.

Let’s be very clear:  there is no voter fraud problem in this state.

We have had two highly contested statewide elections that have gone through litigated mandatory recounts, and no systematic voter fraud was uncovered.  Literally millions of dollars were spent by both parties to scour the voting records to try to uncover any unsavory activities.  All of those efforts were fruitless.

In fact, nearly every documented case of voter fraud in this state during the past decade can be traced back to felons attempting to vote before completing their probation, many of whom did so because they weren’t notified about the status of their voting rights.  The DFL-controlled Legislature passed a solution supported by every County Attorney in the state during the last legislative session:  send a letter to felons that clearly state whether or not they are eligible to vote.  The Republican Governor vetoed the bill.

This bill serves one purpose and one purpose only:  to disenfranchise the poor, elderly, and communities like college students who tend to me more transitional in their housing situations.

It is disgraceful that at a time when our state budget is in crisis and we have an economy that is struggling to grow and create jobs that the Republican legislative majorities are spending a great deal of time working to make it harder for people to vote.

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