Because this blog was very political in its infancy, I’m still asked each election cycle on where I stand regarding major issues facing the electorate. I prefer not to dive into politics too much here simply because most people’s minds are made up anyway and I question how useful political posts from me would be. Political posts tend to divide people into those who agree (and keep reading) and those who disagree (and quit reading).
That said, I’ll briefly give you a few reasons for my decisions on three major topics facing Minnesotans.
The presidential election
I plan to vote for Mitt Romney. I’m probably more aligned with Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson’s views, but he doesn’t have a remote chance of winning. Besides, political positions aside, Romney would undoubtedly make a better executive leader than Johnson. I’ve been very disappointed with the divisive tone that Barack Obama struck from the minute he took office. It was particularly disheartening to see him shun his opposition while he had a majority in both the House and Senate, then turn around and pretend to want to work across the aisle with them over the last 2 years. I realize Republicans also played the role of the obstinate opposition, but I don’t think that immaturity in the legislative branch excuses poor leadership in the executive branch.
I suppose I could and probably should say more, but I’m not exactly energized about the presidential election and don’t have much more input than this. I don’t think I’ll get too excited no matter who comes out on top.
The Minnesota marriage amendment
I will vote no. This measure would amend the Minnesota state constitution to read, “Only a union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Minnesota.” Importantly, this would not change state law, but conservative lawmakers want to solidify that law in our constitution to ensure judges can’t overturn that law. At least that’s the reason that they’ve given.
One strategist who helped push the amendment through the senate now says the only reason it was put on the ballot is to bring out conservative voters and give Republicans a better chance against popular Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar. After all, similar measures have yet to fail in any state in which they’ve been put on the ballot.
But regardless of any misguided political reasons for the amendment, that’s not why I’m voting no. There are two primary issues I have with the amendment:
- Constitutional amendment. The constitution should not be used to permanently encode a group’s religious definition of a secular institution. It’s important to remember that we aren’t talking about the definition of a religious marriage performed in your church; we’re talking about a civil institution that anyone can partake in, regardless of religion or lack thereof.
- Religious motivation. The only reason I’ve seen presented to keep the definition of marriage between one man and one woman is this: religion. It’s why the primary beneficiary of the efforts to support this amendment is the Catholic church.
The issue here is ultimately the term “marriage.” A Star Tribune poll from 1 month ago shows that while 49% of Minnesotans support gay marriage, 68% support civil unions for homosexual couples. If marriage certificates were changed to be called civil union certificates, I highly doubt this would be such a big issue for Christians.
I don’t want to live in a theocracy. Our laws – and especially our constitution – should not be dictated based on one group’s interpretation of a religious text, even if it’s my own. It’s so easy to scoff at Middle Eastern countries for establishing their laws based on Islamic law, yet many of us don’t think twice about creating our own laws based solely on our Christian beliefs.
Our laws are intended to govern all people, regardless of their religion or creed. The creation and maintenance of these laws should be a secular matter. I don’t think we should introduce religious arguments for secular laws. I especially don’t think the constitution that governs those laws should come from such an overtly religious perspective.
When a wedding official at a Christian wedding invokes “the power vested in me by God and by the State of Minnesota,” he is enforcing these as two separate entities. They should remain separate.
There are many Christians voting no on this amendment because they either don’t think the constitution should be used for this purpose or they don’t think the state’s policy should be set based on the religious beliefs of one segment of the population. Count me as one of those Christians.
(I also find it incredibly hypocritical that the same people who want government out of their lives when it comes to their money, businesses, and social programs want government to be so involved in moral and religious issues like this. But that’s a subject for another time.
Also, a few days ago my wife noted the irony that she spent time at the home of friends who have a “Vote Yes” sign in their lawn and a day or two later was at the home of friends who have a “Vote No” sign in their lawn. We have many friends who are passionately voting both ways on this and I don’t consider anyone to be less of a person for disagreeing with me on this issue.)
I plan to vote no. Minnesota is looking to join a handful of states who now require all voters to present a government-issued ID at the polls in order to vote. On the surface, I like an ID requirement for voting. ID is required for so many other daily activities, it makes sense that we should verify we are who we say we are in a function in which integrity is more important than perhaps any other.
But there are some serious problems with Minnesota’s voter ID amendment that make me uneasy.
For reference, here’s the amendment before the voters:
(b) All voters voting in person must present valid government-issued photographic identification before receiving a ballot. 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. 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.
(c) 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.
Here are my primary concerns in reverse order of importance:
- Constitutional amendment. Permanently codifying the use of a tool that hasn’t been around that long as the gateway to exercising such a fundamental right just doesn’t set well with me.
- Vague language. It’s one thing to require ID in person at the polls. But what about those casting absentee ballots? What about military service members overseas? Where will college students be required to vote?
- Expense. This will be very expensive to implement. Not only will the state now be required to provide free photo IDs for anyone without one, but those who show up at the polls without an ID will need to cast a provisional ballot, which adds administrative expenses.
- Voter fraud isn’t a major issue. We seem to be proposing a solution for an issue that doesn’t exist. A 2007 report from the New York Times showed that a 5-year Bush administration crackdown on voter fraud yielded just 120 charges and 86 convictions nationwide.
- This still wouldn’t solve voter fraud. Fake IDs can be created. Election officials at the polls will be hard-pressed to determine who’s a felon or is otherwise ineligible to vote without an electronic system in place to immediately check for this information, which would come at an enormous cost.
You’ll notice I don’t list “Voter disenfranchisement” in the list here. I realize the elderly, poor, and minorities tend to have a lower rate of possessing a government-issued ID and this could theoretically affect elections, presumably in favor of conservatives. But I think there are already stipulations in the law that disenfranchise voters, particularly those who are transient. Any validation requirement will inevitably disenfranchise someone by definition. So, while voter disenfranchisement is certainly a possibility, it’s not why I hold my position.
I’m religious about keeping my wallet on me at all times, and ironically, I forgot it when I went to vote in the primary election in August. It’s easy for me to drive 5 blocks to retrieve it, but rural Minnesotans don’t have this luxury.
The complications presented by the voter ID amendment as it’s been written up are too great for me to think it’s a good idea to implement.