Minnesota Safe Schools Bill Becomes Law

Amid last week's activity surrounding the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network's Day of Silence and the PFAW-led safe schools letter campaign came a state success for the idea that all students deserve far better than what they're getting when it comes to bullying an harassment. In the wee hours of April 9, the Minnesota House of Representatives took the final vote on the Safe and Supportive Schools Act. That afternoon Governor Mark Dayton signed it into law.

PFAW activists proudly joined OutFront Minnesota and the Safe Schools for All Coalition in supporting the bill as it moved to the Governor's desk.

PFAW will continue to stand up for safe schools.

We have released a policy toolkit designed to help activists understand and address the problem head-on. We hope that you'll use it to continue your own work on this important issue.

We also hope that you'll check out PFAW's report on Big Bullies: How the Religious Right is Trying to Make Schools Safe for Bullies and Dangerous for Gay Kids and its 2012 update.

Then visit our website and Right Wing Watch for more LGBT equality updates.

PFAW

Minnesotans Reject Voter ID

Earlier this year, the Minnesota state legislature passed SF 509, requiring photo ID at the polls. Governor Mark Dayton vetoed the bill, but proponents led by ALEC State Chairwoman Mary Kiffmeyer managed to bypass him by pushing through a constitutional amendment version (HF 2738) and sending the voter ID question to voters. Efforts went forth to remove it from the ballot but the MN Supreme Court denied the challenge.

An aggressive “Vote No” movement was waged all the way up to Election Day. ACLU of Minnesota, Common Cause Minnesota, Jewish Community Action, Take Action MN, and Our Vote Our Future all campaigned and distributed information about the harmful and discriminatory nature of voter ID. The Minnesota League of Women Voters issued an excellent fact sheet that debunked the most common misleading claims regarding voter ID, and a popular “I Pledge to Vote NO” Facebook page got information out over social media networks. But organizations continued to grow weary as polls showed that voters were willing to approve the amendment all the way up to the week before Election Day.

But the campaign apparently worked – Minnesotans ended up opposing voter ID on Tuesday and the amendment failed 54.2% to 45.8%. Minnesotans do not need to fear having to present a photo ID to vote in future elections, and the question can largely be put to rest.

Throughout 2011 and 2012, conservative groups and legislators sought to restrict the right to vote and disenfranchise multiple groups of people. Minnesotans proved to want to preserve the right to vote for all.

PFAW Foundation

UPDATE: Minnesota fighting the voting rights battle on multiple fronts

UPDATE: Federal District Judge Donovan Frank dismissed the lawsuit against Election Day voter registration brought by the Minnesota Voters Alliance, affirming its constitutionality. Secretary Ritchie praised the decision, saying "Minnesota’s same-day voter registration serves as a model for our nation and, in part, accounts for our consistent top ranking in voter participation among all states." This ruling is a victory for voting rights, but the fate of Election Day registration is now in the hands of Minnesotans, who will vote on a constitutional amendment this November that would effectively eliminate it. For updates on all aspects of the fight over voting rights in Minnesota, click here.

3/22/2012: After more than 9 hours of floor debate, at just after 2 am yesterday, the Minnesota House passed its version of the voter ID constitutional amendment (HF 2738), sponsored by ALEC State Chairwoman Mary Kiffmeyer. The Senate moved on its version earlier this month, and now a floor vote appears imminent. Once both chambers agree, rules state that the question will bypass Governor Mark Dayton and go to the voters in November.

Minnesota is currently fighting voting rights battles on multiple fronts, including voter ID and same-day registration.

The voter ID battle began last session when the state legislature passed SF 509, legislation requiring photo ID. Following Governor Dayton’s veto, supporters vowed to carry on. Now a voter ID constitutional amendment (SF 1577) is making its way through the Senate. Yesterday it passed the Finance Committee and will next go to the Rules Committee.

Minnesota Public Radio:

Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee approved the measure today by a [party-line] vote of 9 - 6, sending it next to the Rules Committee. State officials estimate that local governments would have to spend $104,000 to place the question on the statewide ballot this fall. If it passes, they estimate first-year local costs at between $8.3 million and $23.3 million, depending on whether new electronic poll books are purchased. Finance Chair Sen. Claire Robling, R-Jordan, said Minnesota Management and Budget couldn't pin down the exact cost because lawmakers would still have to work out the details of the ID requirement during the 2013 session.

Secretary of State Mark Ritchie has suggested a possible compromise:

The proposed legislative fix of state election law would incorporate "electronic poll books," technology that Secretary of State Mark Ritchie has advocated as a less-expensive alternative to a state-issued voter ID card.

Ritchie, a Democrat, appeared recently before a Senate subcommittee to discuss the benefits of the system, which would allow election officials to look up existing drivers' license photos or to take new photos of each voter up at the polling place.

"It doesn't disrupt absentee voting, or voting by service personnel overseas," he said. "It doesn't disrupt our voter registration system, our same-day registration system. It doesn't disenfranchise anybody."

Though its traction is yet unclear.

Republicans in the House and Senate passed a voter ID requirement last year, but Dayton vetoed it. State Sen. John Howe, R-Red Wing, a sponsor of last year's bill, said he has been working with the governor and the secretary of state this session on an updated version. Howe said electronic poll books would help achieve the goal of proper voter identification.

"I can't speak to whether this does anything on the constitutional amendment for photo ID," Howe said. "But I can tell you that I personally, along with many of my colleagues, want to see things done as much as we can legislatively."

[Side note: According to ALEC Exposed, Senator Howe is an ALEC member.]

In other news, the Minnesota Voters Alliance, joined by the Minnesota Freedom Council and Representative Sondra Erickson (another ALEC member), has filed a lawsuit that could greatly impact the state’s same-day registration system. The plaintiffs contend that same-day registrants should face the same eligibility checks faced by advance registrants, and their votes should not be counted until their eligibility is verified.

There is no question that we have a lot of work to do to ensure that eligible Americans can exercise their right to vote. But the goal should be fair and honest enfranchisement, not the politics of distraction. The fact is that same-day registration increases voter turnout and is good for democracy.

For more information, check out The Right to Vote under Attack: The Campaign to Keep Millions of Americans from the Ballot Box, a Right Wing Watch: In Focus report by PFAW Foundation.

PFAW Foundation

UPDATE: Minnesota fighting the voting rights battle on multiple fronts

UPDATE: After more than 9 hours of floor debate, at just after 2 am yesterday, the Minnesota House passed its version of the voter ID constitutional amendment (HF 2738), sponsored by ALEC State Chairwoman Mary Kiffmeyer. The Senate moved on its version earlier this month, and now a floor vote appears imminent. Once both chambers agree, rules state that the question will bypass Governor Mark Dayton and go to the voters in November.

Minnesota is currently fighting voting rights battles on multiple fronts, including voter ID and same-day registration.

The voter ID battle began last session when the state legislature passed SF 509, legislation requiring photo ID. Following Governor Dayton’s veto, supporters vowed to carry on. Now a voter ID constitutional amendment (SF 1577) is making its way through the Senate. Yesterday it passed the Finance Committee and will next go to the Rules Committee.

Minnesota Public Radio:

Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee approved the measure today by a [party-line] vote of 9 - 6, sending it next to the Rules Committee. State officials estimate that local governments would have to spend $104,000 to place the question on the statewide ballot this fall. If it passes, they estimate first-year local costs at between $8.3 million and $23.3 million, depending on whether new electronic poll books are purchased. Finance Chair Sen. Claire Robling, R-Jordan, said Minnesota Management and Budget couldn't pin down the exact cost because lawmakers would still have to work out the details of the ID requirement during the 2013 session.

Secretary of State Mark Ritchie has suggested a possible compromise:

The proposed legislative fix of state election law would incorporate "electronic poll books," technology that Secretary of State Mark Ritchie has advocated as a less-expensive alternative to a state-issued voter ID card.

Ritchie, a Democrat, appeared recently before a Senate subcommittee to discuss the benefits of the system, which would allow election officials to look up existing drivers' license photos or to take new photos of each voter up at the polling place.

"It doesn't disrupt absentee voting, or voting by service personnel overseas," he said. "It doesn't disrupt our voter registration system, our same-day registration system. It doesn't disenfranchise anybody."

Though its traction is yet unclear.

Republicans in the House and Senate passed a voter ID requirement last year, but Dayton vetoed it. State Sen. John Howe, R-Red Wing, a sponsor of last year's bill, said he has been working with the governor and the secretary of state this session on an updated version. Howe said electronic poll books would help achieve the goal of proper voter identification.

"I can't speak to whether this does anything on the constitutional amendment for photo ID," Howe said. "But I can tell you that I personally, along with many of my colleagues, want to see things done as much as we can legislatively."

[Side note: According to ALEC Exposed, Senator Howe is an ALEC member.]

In other news, the Minnesota Voters Alliance, joined by the Minnesota Freedom Council and Representative Sondra Erickson (another ALEC member), has filed a lawsuit that could greatly impact the state’s same-day registration system. The plaintiffs contend that same-day registrants should face the same eligibility checks faced by advance registrants, and their votes should not be counted until their eligibility is verified.

There is no question that we have a lot of work to do to ensure that eligible Americans can exercise their right to vote. But the goal should be fair and honest enfranchisement, not the politics of distraction. The fact is that same-day registration increases voter turnout and is good for democracy.

For more information, check out The Right to Vote under Attack: The Campaign to Keep Millions of Americans from the Ballot Box, a Right Wing Watch: In Focus report by PFAW Foundation.

PFAW Foundation