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Last week, I finally reached the end of the road – or road trip – in Minnesota. Wrapping up an eight-state election 2012 tour in Minnesota was fitting as the state League is still engaged in an all-out campaign to defeat a confusing proposal to amend the state constitution. The proposed amendment, if passed, would require restrictive voter photo ID. The League is a leading member of the Our Vote, Our Future coalition which is educating voters on the truth about requiring voters to present government-issued ID when voting. Minnesota’s election laws are among the best in the nation as two successful recounts have demonstrated in recent years. The proposed amendment, if passed, would likely result in a shakeup of the entire election system, requiring provisional balloting and endangering same day registration.
While voter photo ID has enjoyed strong public support, in Minnesota, thanks to the League and its partners, support has eroded from 80% to 52% according to recent polling. That is great news not just for the League in Minnesota which has been visible and vocal on the issue for over a year, but also for efforts in other states to keep ballot access free and fair for all eligible voters. We don’t expect this issue to go away following the election, so it is good to see that facts are beginning to make a difference.
While in the Twin Cities, I had a chance to meet with elections officials in Ramsey (St. Paul) and Hennepin (Minneapolis) counties. These visits reinforced the fact that Minnesotans can count on a well-run election this year. I also had the opportunity to join the Secretary of State in talking to two classes of high school students in St. Paul. The students were very interested in the upcoming election, asking questions about the voter ID amendment!
Later in the visit, I sat down with Hennepin County Attorney, Mike Freeman, whose office is responsible for prosecuting election fraud. Mr. Freeman has been outspoken in his opposition to the voter ID amendment; he can tell you for a fact that there is no reason to burden voters with restrictive ID requirements in order to insure the integrity of Minnesota elections.
It was enlightening to attend two debates during my visit to Minnesota. One was for a Congressional race and the other was a combined forum for a state senate and state house seat. The League has a well-deserved reputation for well-run debates and that fact was in evidence in both the events I attended. To round out my debate experience, I also had the pleasure of watching the second presidential debate with a group of young League leaders in Minneapolis.
Finally, I was privileged to be among those who welcomed 203 new citizens at a naturalization ceremony in St. Paul. League members provided these new Americans with voter information. Thanks to Minnesota’s Election Day registration system, every one of these newly minted citizens will be able to have a voice in this election. Nothing brings home the importance of voting than knowing what courage it took for these new citizens and for our own ancestors to give up everything to come to America and make a new life.