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Progressive Politics in Minnesota, the Nation, and the World

Renters Getting Registration Forms Is "Heavyhanded"?

Category: Voting
Posted: 07/14/15 20:53, Edited: 07/14/15 20:54

by Dave Mindeman

Minneapolis city councilman Jacob Frey recently made a proposal. The idea is that landlords should be required to hand out a voter registration form to each new apartment occupant.

Attorney and former candidate Cam Winton (that name is so "Frasier";) thought this was a bad idea....

The proposal is a bad idea, for two reasons -- one practical, one philosophical. The practical reason: We need more affordable rental housing in Minneapolis, but putting additional requirements on apartment owners makes it less appealing for them to build and operate apartments here.....philosophical reason: So far in his first term in office, Frey -- a friendly, hardworking person, to be sure -- has demonstrated a troubling tendency to use the force of law to require action that he deems good.

Both of those "objections" are pretty absurd.

First, handing a new apartment renter one more piece of paper is hardly a big "imposition" on the landlord. Winton even insinuates that this "might" stop them from building a complex altogether. Whew...that's a stretch. But let me add that this idea seem pretty great to me. When doing political canvassing in multi-unit housing, the voter engagement is low. And many who end up wanting to vote fail to know that they must change their address on their registration. Too often they go to the polls on election day and are denied because they haven't been placed on their new residence voter list. And though they can still vote by proving their residency with maybe a utility bill, they more than likely will go away without casting their ballot. Reminding the apartment dweller with a registration form seems more of a courtesy than an inconvenience.

Secondly, in regards to Winton's "philosophical reasoning. Mandating the simple inclusion of a voter registration form (among the myriad of documents that the renter will get anyway) doesn't seem like some "heavyhanded" force of law as Winton suggests. Doing a good thing, in this case is simply doing a good thing.

Winton's complaint seems to be just another Republican objection to attempts to make voting easier and not harder.

And there lies the real motive for this little diatribe. Getting renters to vote seems much to "democratic".
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Myth Of America Part II - Voting Rights

Category: Voting
Posted: 03/22/15 00:41, Edited: 03/22/15 00:53

by Dave Mindeman

Oregon has moved the bar on voting...

Under the new law, every adult citizen in Oregon who has interacted with the Driver and Motor Vehicle Services Division since 2013 but hasn't registered to vote will receive a ballot in the mail at least 20 days before the next statewide election.

Since everyone over 18 years of age is an eligible voter, this seems like a pretty natural move toward more voter participation.

But nearly every news story that talked about this move by Oregon brought up Minnesota.....

Minnesota nearly implemented automatic voter registration in 2009 but the plan was vetoed by Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who said "registering to vote should be a voluntary, intentional act."

I tried to understand Pawlenty's reasoning at the time. What he seems to be saying is that voting isn't an automatic right. And registering to vote needs to have a process that requires citizen voters to fill out forms and go through a process for an act that should be guaranteed to every citizen.

Since we already go through this "voluntary" act of making ourselves known to the state as a citizen via our driver's license or state ID, why can't we automatically register a person to vote at the same time?

It is the same information....the same verification....the same process. Yet, in 2009, Governor Pawlenty wanted us to repeat that process in order to vote.

We spend far too much time figuring out ways to complicate voting registration. Far too much time. But we all know it is not about making voting a "voluntary, intentional act". No, it is about suppressing certain voters. Keeping voters away from the polls when possible. And making voting a selective process.

The Supreme Court struck down an important part of the Voting Rights Act which guaranteed that states could be held accountable if they tried to use voting laws to alter the electorate. They said that such accountability was no longer needed. Yet, as soon as the ruling came down, southern states began adding new layers of restriction to their citizens' right to vote.

We purport to be the example of democracy to the world. Yet, we seem to want voting manipulation as much as any non-democracy uses to propagandize its support from the people.

This country manipulates the make-up of voting districts. It puts obstacles in the path of registration. It allows states to have different regulations for voting rights.

One person - one vote. What happened to that concept?
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The Movie'Selma' - And Its Modern Message

Category: Voting
Posted: 01/26/15 12:21

by Dave Mindeman

I saw the movie "Selma" last night - powerful movie, I recommend it to all. In the opening scene, Oprah Winfrey plays a middle age black woman sitting in an empty waiting room. A white clerk calls her name and she steps forward with her paper work. She is going to register to vote. She hands the clerk the papers and says - "I have it right this time" - to which the clerk sneers and replies that he will be the "judge" of that.

After glancing through the papers, he looks up and says, "recite the preamble to the US Constitution". An exercise that I and a lot of people would have trouble getting through. But the woman recites it verbatim. Not satisfied, the clerk asks another question...."how many county judges are there in Alabama" - again, she gives the correct answer. The clerk, looking a little frustrated, stares at her and gives a final challenge - "name 'em". The woman looks down at the floor, takes her papers back and simply walks away, while the clerk smiles smugly.

We seem to have forgotten the obstacles that were put in the way of African-American voters. We forget that in Selma, in 1965, black voters outnumbered whites, but the voter rolls were 99% white and 1% black.

After the Selma protests, which resulted in the deaths and beatings of people simply wishing to legally attain their right to enter a voting booth, Lyndon Johnson and Congress were almost shamed into passing the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965.

But, really, how far have we come?

The Supreme Court seems to have decided that we have come far enough. They struck down the special provisions that forced southern states to allow equal access...(just think about that a second - we had to pass a law to allow our own citizens to be able to vote in a democracy). The Supreme Court (at least 5 members of that court) believe that discrimination in voting is a thing of the past...an archaic remnant of times long past.

But what does the evidence tell you?

In state after state, new laws, new obstacles, are being placed in the path of citizens who simply want to pull a lever and indicate their preference on the leaders that get chosen. Voter ID laws are the new poll tax...the new questionairre....the new paper work maze.

Somehow, we have allowed politicians to pick the voters instead of the other way around.

It isn't blatant discrimination like we had in the 1960's South. But it is still discriminatory obstruction. It is still a targeted attempt to disenfranchise whole groups of people.

I have never understood why there is this fear that allowing everyone to exercise the democratic right to vote will somehow instigate some intolerable outcome.

It is a democracy, is it not? We still believe in the "will of the people" do we not?

Selma is a powerful reminder of what we have had to endure to insure the right to vote. But it is also a powerful reminder that we cannot let those same obstructionist demons find their way into our system again.

The Voting Rights Act needs to be renewed - and maybe it is time that we "vote" in a Congress that understands the need for those rights and is willing to protect those rights forever.
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