Minnesotans Will Decide Voter ID Question in November Election

Minnesota Rep. Mike Benson and Sen. Carla Nelson talk to voters in Rochester following 2012 Legislative session. -photo by Jeremy Griffith

Minnesotans will soon have to choose whether or not to require photo ID at the polls. The state legislature placed a constitutional ballot amendment question on November’s ballot after Governor Mark Dayton vetoed a voter ID bill last year.

The amendment question is a yes or no question asking voters whether or not they want the constitution of Minnesota to require voters to present valid state photo ID when they vote. Proponents say the bill will cut down on willful voter fraud in the future, while opponents say it will disenfranchise certain voters who are unable to get photo ID, such as shut ins, nursing home residents, and overseas residents.

Recent polls indicate most Minnesotans favor a voter ID law.

Rep. Mike Benson, a primary architect of the bill, says it will empower voters because so much of what we do on a day to day basis requires an ID and points out that those seeking government services require a photo ID in any case.

“Voter fraud is so difficult to detect and it is cost prohibitive to prosecute,” said Benson. “It’s not a priority for local county attorneys with the other crimes they have to deal with. This measure will help to detect potential voter fraud before it happens.”

Rep. Mike Benson comments on Voter ID Constitutional Amendment Question. Video by Jeremy Griffith

Sen. Carla Nelson explained that voters who show up to the polls can still vote through a provisional ballot system. The bill will do away with vouching, but will not eliminate same day registration, she said.

“This bill, let’s be clear, will do away with the practice of vouching,” said Nelson. “It will not eliminate election day registration. And those who cannot afford photo ID, the government will provide one for them.”

Sen. Carla Nelson Comments on Voter ID Constitutional Amendment Question. Video by Jeremy Griffith

Dan McGraff, executive director of Minnesota Majority, had a lot of input into how the bill was presented to the legislature. His organization found irregularities after the heavily contested election of 2008. According to statistics he found from the State Secretary of State’s office, over 23,000 postal verification cards sent to verify the new same day voter registrations came back because they were unable to find a valid address or a person at the address that met with the description of the person registered. Since the 2008 election over 400 people have been identified as having voted illegally and 113 have been convicted, he said.

The 2008 election was the year when Al Franken-DFL narrowly defeated incumbent Republican Norm Coleman for the US Senate seat. The Minneapolis Star Tribune, with statistics from the Minnesota Canvassing Board, shows how close the election was before and after legal challenges and a six week recount process.

Opponents of the ballot question say that voter fraud is actually well below one percent of the 2.9 million who voted in the 2008 election, and that the amendment would further disenfranchise voters who would otherwise not be able to get a valid photo ID.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, there are currently over 30 states that have some kind of voter ID law on the books today.

You can hear debate for and against the proposed amendment at the Minnesota State Legislature’s website here.

The language of the final amendment questions can be seen here.

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Race and Gun Violence in the Media; Are We Getting the Whole Picture?

by Jeremy Griffith

Does political correctness in the media taint our perception of race, crime and incidents of self defense with guns? In view of the recent Trayvon Martin story, columnist Michael Filozof of the American Thinker explores these issues in his article, “What if Trayvon Martin had been white, and the shooter black?”

The Christopher Cervini murder investigation presents such a scenario. It shares many details similar to that of Trayvon Martin, only in reverse. Cervini, a 17-year old white teen and his friends were meandering through a Greece N.Y. neighborhood on a cold day in 2009. They had been drinking gin and rifling through cars looking for loose change and cigarettes when they were confronted by Roderick Scott, a black man, who shot Cervini twice, killing him.

In both the Martin and Cervini cases, there was a 911 call before the shooting. In the Cervini case an argument can be made that the boys were committing a crime, albeit a minor one. No such assertion can be made for Martin.

Scott was originally charged with murder, but the charge was downgraded to manslaughter and at the end of the trial he was acquitted by the jury. The jury apparently decided that Scott was justified in his self defense claim.

In a discussion on Internet radio, host Kira Davis and blogger Talitha McEachin interview the Cervini family, (see discussion beginning around 17:30 of the program). While they admit the boys were going through cars in the neighborhood, the family asserts that Christopher was never in any trouble with the law before his death and didn’t deserve to die. The family claims that Scott had no right of self defense,  that he was never in any danger, and their son would still be alive if Scott had remained in his home. The family further asserts that their son’s case was grossly mishandled and largely ignored by the media.

Update: Cervini family interview with Kira Davis and Talitha McEachin. Video adaptation by Jeremy Griffith

The role of the media in covering these two stories is a subject of debate. Davis and Filozof agree that media chooses to ignore the Cervini story because it doesn’t fit with the narrative of a black youth as a victim. African American columnist Earl Ofari Hutchinson  believes the media hasn’t done enough to expose the victimization and racial profiling of a young black male at the hands of a white vigilante and says there is a concerted effort to trash the victim and protect a murderer.

It will be interesting to see how the discussion is shaped in the future in regards to race, self defense and the media’s role in coverage of interracial violence.



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Voter ID Requirements by State as of May 2012

The above infographic is a national representation of the Status of Voter ID Laws by state as of May 2012. It is based statistics from the National Conference of Legislatures. Original infographic by Jeremy Griffith.

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Money doesn’t buy victory in the MLB!

by Jeremy Griffith

I love baseball! But I don’t know anything about it. I just purchase my overpriced hot dog and beer and sit with my friends and enjoy the game. So I decided to educate myself and find out if money really buys victory in Major League Baseball. What I found out surprised me!

Take my team the Minnesota Twins as an example. In 1990 they were the worst team in the American League. The Atlanta Braves had a similar distinction in the National League that year. In 1991 however both teams went from being worst to first and faced off in one of the best World Series ever, with the Twins defeating the Braves in the final game 1-0. The Twins won the Series four games to three.

In 1991 the New York Yankees was only the eight highest paid team in baseball with over $27.8 million in total paid salaries. The Oakland Athletics was the highest paid team that year with over $33.6 million in total salaries paid. Minnesota was in the bottom half with $22.4 million and the Braves were in the bottom third with just over $20.4 million. That year the highest paid player for the Twins was Jack Morris who was paid $3.7 million. The Braves’ highest paid player that year was Lonnie Smith who earned just over $2 million.

So you see, talent and desire, with a little bit of luck, win championships in Major League Baseball, not money.

*graph statistics compiled from USA Today and ESBN.Com.


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Minnesota Social Workers Demonstrate Against Gay Marriage Ban

By Jeremy Griffith

Minnesota voters will see a new constitutional amendment proposal in their ballots this November protecting the traditional definition of marriage, a proposal that his highly supported by the Catholic Church. Meanwhile, on Monday Minnesota social workers marched to the capitol to demonstrate in opposition.

Members of the Minnesota Association of Licensed Social Workers met at the History Center in St. Paul in the morning to attend training sessions. In the afternoon, they marched the short distance to rally on the capitol steps. Governor Mark Dayton and several state legislators made brief remarks.

Mike Arieta, a licensed clinical social worker and therapist, attended the rally.

“People were carrying signs and talking about the issues,” said Arieta. “I was particularly moved by a couple of the signs I saw.”

According to Arieta, it is the duty of a social worker to advocate for the less fortunate and to take up those issues on behalf of clients to political leaders. He is against the marriage amendment as written, he says, because it would discriminate against people who have an alternate home life.

“The state used to promote the traditional marriage because it was viewed as the most stable situation,” Arieta explained. “Things have changed a lot. We aren’t the same farm based economy we were a hundred years ago. Our idea of what a marriage is should change with it to better reflect who we are today.”

According to October editions of The Blaze and the Minnesota Independent , the Minnesota Arch Diocese has sent an open letter out to every Minnesota priest advocating support for the amendment. The letter signed by Arch Bishop John Nienstedt says in part:

It is imperative that we marshal our resources to educate the faithful about the Church’s teachings on these matters, and to vigorously organize and support a grass roots effort to get out the vote to support the passage of the amendment. .  .”

The letter calls for “Church Captains” who would advocate in their churches, forming ad hoc committees, a tactic that worked well in California’s successful Proposition 8 bill initiative.

If passed, the amendment would make it so that only unions between one man and one woman would be recognized by the state as a legal marriage.

Social Workers gather in St. Paul -photo by Mike Arieta

Social workers rally at Minnesota state capitol carrying signs -photo by Mike Arieta

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