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Rep. Rick Nolan (DFL-MN) introduced the We The People amendment today. It would overturn the US Supreme Court’s Citizen’s United ruling which made corporations people and granted them full First Amendment rights.

Quite a wonderful contrast from Tea Party Republican Chip Cravaack, no?

Rep. Rick Nolan (D-MN) (whose candidacy Daily Kos endorsed in our Orange to Blue efforts) is making good in Washington. On Monday, he introduced, along with Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI), a constitutional amendment to overturn the Citizens United Supreme Court decision that gave corporations free rein in our elections.
In making the announcement, lead sponsor Rep. Rick Nolan (DFL-Minnesota), said: “It’s time to take the shaping and molding of public policy out of corporate boardrooms, away from the corporate lobbyists, and put it back in city halls-back with county boards and state legislatures-and back in the Congress where it belongs.”

Representatives from the grassroots organization Move to Amend joined Nolan to announce the legislation. You read the text of the legislation at their site. The essentials of the bill are:

  • Rights recognized under the Constitution belong to human beings only, and not to government-created artificial legal entities such as corporations and limited liability companies; and
  • Political campaign spending is not a form of speech protected under the First Amendment.
  • (Daily Kos)


    Video: Why VOTE NO won for marriage

    by JeffStrate on December 28, 2012 · 0 comments

    Professor of Religion David Booth (St. Olaf College) provides perspective on the defeat of the proposed MN Constitutional amendment that would have defined marriage as a legal relationship only between a woman and a man.

    This 20 minute video is an extended version of Dr. Booth’s discussion on the current edition of Democratic Visions.  Dr. Booth originally commented on the failure of the proposed marriage amendment in the November 26th edition of MinnPost in an article entitled: “What happened here? Three observations about Minnesota’s marriage vote.”   I produce and edit Democratic Visions with the help of other volunteers through DFL Senate District 48.  

    Here is the link –  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v…


    We have an opportunity on voting rights

    by Eric Ferguson on November 17, 2012 · 1 comment

    I know it looks like I’m just reposting “Move right away on marriage equality“, with “marriage equality” scratched out and “voting rights” scribbled in, but I assure readers I do get that these are two different issues, the “Vote NO On Both” campaign theme notwithstanding. They do have a common irony, however, in that the Republicans who put the amendments on the ballot revealed something and thereby offered an opportunity. The opportunity they exposed to advance voting rights isn’t as clear cut as marriage equality, but it’s still there.

    Think back to the voter fraud fraudsters claims they found enormous numbers of felons voting. They didn’t actually find more then a few, and they undermined their claim fraud is common, but they showed us something. Not only did voter fraud prove scarce, but the tiny amount that was real was all former felons voting, or registering to vote (likewise illegal), before their right were restored. Most charges of illegal voting or registering were dropped for lack of proof the former felon knew they couldn’t vote yet, which makes sense since few people would risk going back to jail just to cast one vote. So clearly hundreds of former felons found the rules confusing, and those are just the ones who erred on the side of voting. How many former felons are mistaken the other way, meaning, their rights are restored, but they aren’t sure or think they can’t vote, so they don’t?
    There’s no way to know the number since a former felon could be aware they can vote again, but just choose not to. If there’s ever been a poll of felons, someone fill me in. I don’t like going off anecdotes, but anecdotes are all we’ve got, and people who have done a lot of election campaign canvassing have probably run into someone who said their criminal record means they can never vote again. They actually can vote once they’re “off paper”, completely done with probation and parole, which sounds clear, but there must be something confusing going on because a lot of former felons are confused. The state isn’t spelling it out when their rights are restored, and states vary in when they let felons vote again, if they even do. There’s a source of the confusion: many states never give voting rights back, and there appears to be a widespread perception that is works that way everywhere.

    Presumably we want felons to vote since that’s what a responsible citizen is supposed to do, yet through allowing confusion on the point, we’re disenfranchising some number of people. Nationally, by not allowing former felons to vote, how many aren’t allowed to vote? We’re an incarceration-happy country, meaning millions of Americans can’t vote because they went to prison. So here’s the next frontier in voting rights. Let’s create a standard that’s both clear and promotes responsible behavior. One clear standard would be you can’t vote if you’re in jail, can vote if you’re out. If your trip to the polling place isn’t stopped by a locked cell door, your vote is legal. Simple.

    Some states never take voting rights away, even during incarceration. I can see the reasoning, that most convicts are going to get out at some point, and it’s better to have them be connected to the outside. I don’t know how prisoner voting works, but obviously such states manage. That would be fine, though politically, probably too much. However, allowing voting once they’re out of prison is a common standard. Changing Minnesota to that standard should be viable as common, fair, as a way to encourage responsible behavior and, something that ought to make the voter fraud claimants happy (I know it doesn’t, but let’s assume rationality) since it would put an end to the little real voter fraud we have.

    In 2009, the legislature passed a bill requiring the state to send a letter to each felon informing them when their rights were restored. Gov. Pawlenty vetoed it. It wouldn’t have changed current rules, merely required the state to tell former felons they were allowed to vote again. As to why something so eminently reasonable and incremental was vetoed, Pawlenty said citizens should be responsible enough to figure it out for themselves. Funny, the state tells us when out drivers licenses are reaching expiration, and our car registrations, and our boat registrations.

    Some time before that Rep. Joe Mullery, DFL-Minneapolis, tried to require probation and parole officers to have a meeting with felons about to complete their supervision to tell them what rights were about to be restored, but that effort didn’t get anywhere. Like the letter, it wouldn’t have changed the rules, but merely required the state to make them clear to individual former felons. So we have two issues: what the rules should be, and whether felons should actually be told what they are. Right now, we have a standard that’s harsher than many states, and, judging from how often felons get it wrong, confusing.

    Across the country, there seems to be roughly four million former felons who can’t vote under their state’s rules. I didn’t see figures for Minnesota specifically, but again, that figure is low because it doesn’t count the felons whose rights are restored, but they don’t know it or aren’t sure and don’t want to take the risk. The time has come to reenfranchise them.

    Are there partisan implications? Without a poll of former felons, I hesitate to make a guess, but Republicans sure seem to think so. The implication was clear when they claimed the number of illegally voting felons was greater than Al Franken’s margin of victory in 2008 (turned out not to be so when the cases were whittled down to the real ones, but anyway), a fact which would make no sense without the assumption all felons vote Democratic. It does happen former felons are disproportionately minority, from the HuffPo link:

    Punishing people with felony records hits African Americans harder than other races: 7 percent of blacks are disenfranchised compared to 1.8 percent of the rest of the country, the study found. The numbers are more drastic in Florida and Virginia, political battlegrounds considered crucial in deciding the outcome of November’s election. In Virginia, 20 percent of blacks can’t vote. In Florida, that number is 23 percent. President Obama carried both states in 2008. (Kentucky, which is safely in Republican hands, is the only other state where 1 in 5 African Americans can’t vote.)

    Reliable information for Latinos wasn’t available, according to Christopher Uggen, the lead author of the report. Uggen said that Hispanics are disenfranchised at a rate higher than whites, but lower than blacks.

    Racial makeup aside, maybe former felons are a bit like other groups Republicans try to stop from voting: Republicans try to stop certain groups from voting while Democrats try to protect their voting rights, and those groups vote Democratic — a bit of a chicken and egg question perhaps. So maybe like with young voters and low income voters, etc., Republican efforts to interfere with their votes is a reason to vote Democratic. Still, isn’t there a principle here? Just saying GOP, Democrats fight back against photo ID even though it would disenfranchise elderly voters, who tend to vote — Republican.

    So now that the voter fraud fraudsters have done us the favor of showing us that the tiny amount of actual fraud is all felons whose rights aren’t restored yet, let’s jump on it this next legislative session, and at a minimum clarify the rules. The best way to clarify the rules is to let anyone out of prison vote. If you can get to the polling place, you’re legal; if the guard says get back in your cell, you’re not. Hard to be mistaken. The real voter fraud would be gone — all of it. Surely that’s what the photo ID advocates want, isn’t it?

    { 1 comment }

    Voter Photo ID in Eden Prairie

    by JeffStrate on November 5, 2012 · 0 comments

    On the evening of Saturday November 3rd, an enthusiastic mix of Somali-American citizens and DFL Senate District 48 regulars gathered at the Eden Prairie Community center.  Educational reform activist Ahmed Jama, Anisa Hashi, Mohmed Farah, former shcool board chair Kim Ross and I had begun planning the get-out-the-vote event in early September.

    Our superb slate of moderate, legislative candidates Laurie McKendry, Tori Hill and Yvonne Selcer were joined by Congressional candidate Brian Barnes, Congressman Keith Ellison and Senator Amy Klobuchar spokesman Siad Ali.  If those Congressional District 3 voters who choose Amy and Barack hang in there for Brian Barnes, he will win a surprise victory against right wing incumbent  Eric Paulsen.

    Each speaker urgently reminded the gathering of the importance to vote NO on the voter photo ID amendment.  I was swept up by a quiet, internal storm of nostalgia.

    I spent the summer of 1965 with some 800 hundred other college students working on an educational program for undernourished Alabama school systems.  The program was administered through (then) Tuskegee Institute. Greater numbers of activists were concurrently registering new voters throughout Alabama and the rest of the south at a time when the Ku Klux Klan and “learning trees” terrorized hard working people; when folks were prevented from voting because they could not read or couldn’t afford to pay a poll tax. 1965 is also the year the federal Voters Rights Bill was passed.

    So, Saturday night, 47 years later in Eden Prairie, one of the nation’s premier suburbs; one that regularly ranks among Minnesota’s highest voter turn out cities, and the place I’ve called home for 18 years, I am at a rally where folks are defending the precepts and spirit of the Voters Rights Act of 1965 from attack via a constitutional amendment.  The new Somali-American citizens at our rally understand what is afoot, if not all the nuances of the American struggle.  They will vote NO.

    If you can not talk with those of your colleagues who think this amendment will be good, send them to Minnesota State Representative Steve Simon’s take on the amendment.   Mr. Simon has provided the most concise and plain speaking argument against the voter ID amendment that I know.  I have posted this link to this particular Democratic Visions segment before, but at this time with the vote just hours away, a refresher has high merit.

    (direct link here)


    This Is What Love Is

    by Peabody on November 2, 2012 · 0 comments

    For any readers of MPP who have friends or relatives who might be thinking of voting “Yes” on the marriage discrimination amendment, please show them the attached video. It is a compelling story of the special bond of love between two men who have been together over twenty years. It shows how their relationship really isn’t that much different from “straight” couples — except for the lack of legal recognition of their relationship.

    Jeff and Steve’s mature relationship teaches lessons about love that all couples – gay and straight – can learn from. Please feel free to share with others, especially anyone who is undecided about the marriage discrimination amendment, and encourage them to vote “NO” this Nov 6th.

    If you would like to see three other videos in the “This Is What Love Is” series, please visit www.ThisIsWhatLoveIs.com.


    Anti-voting rights group funded 89% by one person

    by Eric Ferguson on November 1, 2012 · 0 comments

    life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness --- amendedThere’s something interesting if you look at the 2012 10th Day Pre-General Report of Receipts and Expenditures for Protect My Vote. $1,300,000 came from Joan Cummins, a “Self-employed Homemaker”. The group’s total donations are $1,463,146.64. 89% of of the money for taking away the voting rights of people Protect My vote thinks vote for the wrong party is coming from one person. Wow, that must be a great self-employment this self-described homemaker has.

    Or maybe she got some help from her wealthy right-wing crank husband Bob Cummins. If that name sounds familiar, he’s the GOP big donor corporate CEO who stopped donating because the GOP legislature failed to push through right-to-freeload, known to those who oppose workers’ rights as “right-to-work”. Maybe they each have their own money. I have no idea, don’t really care, because unless they’re unique among married people, it’s pretty much one pot of money.

    And it’s a pot of money apparently dedicated to taking away other people’s rights. As seems typical for voter restriction campaigns and anti-worker campaigns, the funding comes from a few very wealthy, very conservative men (Ms. Cummins not withstanding, pretty much always men) with the money to force their crankery and authoritarian tendencies on the rest of us. So if you’re thinking of voting for the voter restriction amendment, and probably the right-to-freeload amendment coming next session if the MNGOP keeps the legislature, think about who you’re supporting: these guys don’t have enough power as it is, and we need to change the constitution to give them more?

    UPDATE: A thought from a friend of mine watching coverage: if photo ID requirements were in place in those areas, the people who lost their ID in the fires or floods would now be unable to vote. Yeah, too bad your your lost home … no vote for you!  


    “You are being asked to go to the car lot and buy a car, and when you inquire as to how it works, ‘Trust me it works.’ How about the mileage? ‘Trust me, it’s great.’ How about the price? ‘Trust me, after you buy it, I’ll send you the bill.'”
    Gov. Arne Carlson

    Former Minnesota Gov. Arne Carlson said the above quote at a forum in Rochester about the vote restriction amendment last night. Carlson debated Rep. Mary Kiffmeyer (R-Big Lake) and former Republican MN-01 Congressman Gil Gutknecht. Kiffmeyer is the former MN Secretary of State and founder of the vote suppression organization Minnesota Majority, the group pushing the vote restriction amendment.

    Carlson’s turn of phrase is apt.

    Implementation of the amendment, if it passes, will be expensive. Most likely, it will be an unfunded mandate. Already strapped local government units will bear the burden of paying for it. They will be forced to jack up your property taxes to pay for it. Ramsey County estimated it might cost the county $1.75 million. Minneapolis refused to guess on a cost as they found too many variables.

    We know that the amendment will eliminate same-day registration and absentee ballots. Eliminating same-day registration is this amendment’s primary target. Same-day registration is the primary reason Minnesota leads the nation in voter turnout.

    What will replace it? A voucher system that the next legislature will have to hammer out the details. A new government ID verification system for every polling location that the next legislature will need to figure out.

    If this amendment were to be implemented, Minnesota would no longer lead the nation in turnout. And Republicans would be mighty happy about that.

    Here’s a worst case scenario: what if we need a special election before the legislature passes the implementation bill? There are no provisions for that.


    Fear blast from marriage amendment proponents

    by The Big E on October 19, 2012 · 0 comments

    We all knew the fear blasts from the proponents of the so-called “marriage” constitutional amendment would hit the airwaves right about now. We knew they’d use the basest fear-mongering appealing to the worst in people.

    Yes, that’s right. The ones equating freedom to marry with turning our K-12 classrooms into the Gay 90’s bar and conservatives fired from their jobs because Teh Gayz want to marry. Catholic Charities shuttered because of gay people.

    Feel the fear blast for yourself.

    When same sex marriage has been imposed elsewhere, it has not been live and let live. People who believe that marriage is one man and one woman have faced consequences. Small business fined. Individuals fired. Charities closed down. Churches sued. Same sex marriage taught to young children in elementary school and parents have no legal right to be notified or to take their children out of class that day. We can prevent this from happening here, by voting YES on the marriage protection amendment.

    Yes, Teh Gayz want to ruin your marriage. Just like they ruined Amy Koch’s and Michael Brodkorb’s.

    Teh Gayz want to indoctrinate your children into their evil ways of fitness, fashion and they’ll be taking over your schools.

    Teh Gayz will be rounding up all conservatives and re-indoctrinating them in special camps so they’ll focus better on hygiene and good manners.

    Even worse, Teh Gayz want to force everyone to Gay Marry!!! It’s true, I heard about it on Blenn Geck!!!

    Teh Gayz are taking over unless we all vote YES to write bigotry into our state’s constitution using permanent ink.


    Have these billboards appeared in Minnesota?

    by Eric Ferguson on October 17, 2012 · 2 comments

    These billboards have appeared in Ohio and Wisconsin:

    The linked posts said they appeared in inner city neighborhoods in Milwaukee, and in “…African -American neighborhoods here in Cincinnati and in Cleveland as in other areas of Ohio…” Signs and billboards like this seem to pop up every election, and funny, apparently only in minority neighborhoods. Just a coincidence I’m sure.

    Do you know what voter fraud is? What if you didn’t follow this issue closely and know what that meant? Would you find this intimidating? Might you think maybe you would stay away from the polls, just to avoid bringing trouble down on yourself? I have a suspicion that the people who post these billboards are sure hoping you don’t know much about voter fraud and start having such thoughts.

    Has anyone seen these or something like them in Minnesota? I’m not referring to the ones claiming Minnesota leads the country in voter fraud that appeared on some freeway billboards earlier this year, but the ones threatening punishment for voter fraud. Mention it in the comments, and be as specific as you can about where you saw them. Links to articles or photographs of the billboards would be helpful.

    Here’s the video from the Uptake post:


    On the steps of Central Lutheran Church in downtown Minneapolis, the Minnesota Council of Churches announced that they were joining the coalition of groups opposing the constitutional amendment to restrict voting rights. The MCC represents upwards of 1 million Minnesotans from the following denominations:

  • African Methodist Episcopal Church
  • American Baptist Churches USA
  • Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
  • Church of God in Christ
  • Church of the Brethren
  • The Episcopal Church
  • Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
  • Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America
  • Mennonite Church
  • Moravian Church
  • National Association of Congregational Christian Churches
  • National Baptist Convention
  • Presbyterian Church (USA)
  • United Church of Christ
  • and United Methodist Church.
  • Republicans want to eliminate same-day registration, absentee balloting and impose a new, expensive voter verification system. Almost all of the details would have to be figured out and passed into law by the next legislature in 2013.

    This is part of a national effort by Republicans to suppress voting by Democratic-leaning demographic groups like students and minorities so that Republican candidates can win more electoral victories both locally and nationally.

    “We are calling upon our congregations and members to have conversations and be vigorously engaged to defeat the Voter ID amendment,” said Rev. Peg Chemberlin, executive director of the statewide council.

    “The board of the regional governing and administrative bodies of Mainline Protestant, Historic Black and Greek Orthodox churches does not lean politically left or right,” said Peter Rogness, bishop of the Saint Paul Area Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and president of the Minnesota Council of Churches.

    “We stand opposed to the Voter ID amendment because as communities of faith we lean towards those on the margins of society, those often overlooked by the mainstream, those left voiceless in the decisions that affect their lives.”

    The MCC’s complete analysis below the fold …

    Minnesota Council of Churches Opposes the Voter ID Amendment
    MCC’s board opposes the amendment for the following reasons:

    The amendment, if enacted, would create a fundamental shift in the understanding of how citizens grant power to government in exchange for their right to govern. Currently a citizen takes an oath when registering to vote, giving his or her word that voting eligibility standards have been met. The burden has been on the government to prove voter fraud and to prosecute such cases (which almost never occur on the basis of false identity, the only type of fraud this amendment is attempting to address). This amendment, if passed, will, for the first time, set up a government regulatory system that supplants a citizen’s oath and burdens citizens to prove their right to vote. (The exact scope of this regulatory system will be set up by the legislature after the amendment is approved, leaving the amendment’s impact to be unknown).

    As a Christian organization, we affirm the principals of a participatory democracy which encourage people to join in the democratic process, engages in the great conversation of our democracy, and urges people to vote to help decide and define the future of our shared life as citizens. We have a role to safe-guard the right to vote.

    Many citizens are retreating from the public square because political life is so contentious and overly partisan. Religious leaders and their communities should make every effort to emphasize shared wisdom and common themes to help Minnesotans build a sense of shared purpose, and to ameliorate the splintering for both organized religion and for political life.

    Reduced Voter Accessibility
    Reputable, non-partisan research is making it clear that the effect of Minnesota’s proposed constitutional amendment on voter identification will disenfranchise thousands of Minnesota voters; perhaps hundreds of thousands.

    Groups such as Lutheran Social Service, Catholic Charities, the Jewish Community Action Council, and many congregations and judicatories see this issue through the lens of social justice. These groups who follow Biblical teachings to care for the poor, homeless, elderly, disabled and transient, believe this amendment would disenfranchise the very people they work with to be recognized as full citizens.

    Many groups such as those who are disabled, students, elderly, poor, or homeless, may find it challenging and expensive to obtain the documents needed to obtain the required voter ID. The oath citizens make under current law to vouch for another citizen is something that should not be denigrated, but actually lifted up as a matter of great importance.

    Students should be encouraged into a lifetime of voting and broader engagement as citizens. But this bill will make it harder for them to vote because their photo ID will often not show their residency where they are attending college. We believe we should encourage, not discourage our youth and young adults in their first attempt to vote.

    Fiscal Responsibility
    We oppose the amendment as a matter of financial stewardship. The increased costs to the state and to local governments’ budgets incurred by the proposed changes to Minnesota’s voting regulations providing “free” voter picture IDs, and new voting stipulations such as provisional ballots should be used for more pressing needs within our state and communities. As this proposal is being considered, new technology is being developed that will be more effective in registering and identifying voters.