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THE VOTER BLOG

  • 28 Jun 2016 1:39 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    From a report to the Board of Directors from Program Chair Judy Screaton about our 2016 Youth Voter Registration project:

    We visited six St. Paul High Schools hosting eight registration events.  We used iPads and iPhones to conduct the registration.  Online registration is encouraged by the Minnesota Secretary of State’s Office due to accuracy and the resulting saving of money.  Overall, 99% of registrations were done online with only five students using paper forms. St. Paul High Schools provide students with an electronic device. We asked for a show of hands to get registration totals.

    We registered over 300 students, provided voter information to over 1090 students, 10 League volunteers participated, and estimated volunteer hours spent on the project was 67.

    We partnered with the Minnesota Secretary of State’s office to register the entire senior class at one time at Harding High School.  We registered 93 students in 15 minutes.

    Congratulations and thanks to Judy and our volunteers! A special thanks also to Alena Porter, our Youth Voter Coordinator.

  • 17 Jun 2016 8:33 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    On Saturday, June 11, members from eleven League chapters met for a moderator training workshop led by LWVMN president, Terry Kalil.

    New Board member Jayne Discenza attended and provided this report:

    “As a new Saint Paul voter last year, League’s forum for my ward’s city council race was invaluable in informing my vote. It’s clear from the national debates on television that moderating politicians can be quite a trial. This training sought to raise the bar for local debates by reinforcing League goals of nonpartisanship and providing the nuts-and-bolts logistics of running a forum.

    Prior to arriving, participants were instructed to write out the most offensive, off-topic, petty questions imaginable. As a group exercise, participants re-wrote them to comply with League standards. This task demonstrated the importance of question screening and sorting—more difficult than one might expect. Do you reject a question that may be offensive, or should it be composed differently to get to the heart of the question? How do we maintain our neutrality while still asking tough questions?

    Much of the workshop was a discussion on characteristics of an effective moderator, from tactics of controlling the room, handling crises and noncompliant participants, and elevating the level of discourse. Experienced moderators shared their horror stories and successes and helped those of us with no experience address our hesitancies surrounding moderating. At the end of the training, I walked away with a greater understanding of League ideals of nonpartisanship and objectivity.”


  • 25 Apr 2016 10:01 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Are you interested in engaging young voters? Or, looking for a way to get involved this election season without a large time commitment?

    We have a very successful youth voter registration campaign going on now!  In April and May we are registering high school seniors at Harding High School, Washington Technical Magnet, Creative Arts High School, Como Park High School and Highland Park High School.

    As part of this, on April 27, we are registering the entire senior class at Harding High School and offering a way to get a reminder phone call about voting in November. A representative from the Secretary of State will also be in attendance at this event!

    We are still looking for more volunteers to help us register students at Como Park Senior High School on Monday, May 16, 2016. There are two openings for three hours in the morning and two openings for three hours in the afternoon. If you are interested in helping with this important registration drive, please email Judy at rjscreaton@gmail.com.


    *Photo via Flickr, KOMUNews

  • 30 Mar 2016 5:11 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    On Monday, March 28, 2016, the League of Women Voters - Saint Paul hosted the "Use Your Voice" Concert with Grammy and two-time Americana Music Award winner Patty Griffin; Sara Watkins, a founding member of the Grammy Award-winning group Nickel Creek; and acclaimed singer/songwriter Anaïs Mitchell. The event was a huge successover 1,000 people attended to support the artists and voter participation.

    Amy Mino, our Treasurer, opened the event with a speech to a crowd donning "I Will Vote" stickers about the importance of voting and the work that the League is doing this year to increase voter turnout. The League received several special mentions throughout the night and high praise from the artists which led several individuals to approach the League after the event to ensure they would receive updates on upcoming opportunities to get involved and to inquire about materials that will be helpful for the cause.

    The artists really shined throughout the night, crooning to the group of politically active citizens and supporters of the League. We're very happy with the event and hope it is a sign of the many successes yet to come in 2016!

  • 24 Mar 2016 2:59 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Are you interested in engaging young voters? Or, looking for a way to get involved this election season without a large time commitment?

    We are looking for volunteers to help us register students in Saint Paul area high schools to vote in upcoming elections. Volunteers can choose to commit to as little as one morning or afternoon shift at a school, or be more involved and assist at multiple registration events throughout April and May.

    We are currently lining up dates and times for each event but have finalized plans to visit Central High School on April 21, Creative Arts High School on May 4, and Como Park High School on May 16.

    If you are interested in helping with this important registration drive or learning more, please email Judy at rjscreaton@gmail.com. She will keep you updated on the need for volunteers, as well as the dates and times available.

    *Photo via Flickr, KOMUNews

  • 02 Mar 2016 6:26 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Felony disenfranchisement is when a person who is convicted of a felony crime loses their right to vote as part of their punishment. This punishment happens automatically for all convicted felons, regardless of the particular crime. In Minnesota, ex-offenders may vote when they are no longer incarcerated, on supervised released (known in most other states as “parole”), or on probation. Since 1974, the percentage of voting age Minnesotans disenfranchised as a result of a criminal conviction has increased over 400%. In 2011, 63,000 Minnesotans were unable to vote due to a felony conviction.[1] That’s as if the entire population of Burnsville (and then some) was unable to vote.

    Restore the Vote Minnesota and its supporting organizations believe that it would be better for both the ex-offender and Minnesota in general if ex-offenders were returned their voting rights as soon as ex-offenders leave incarceration. That means that ex-offenders who are on parole or probation would be able to vote. The reasons for restoring voting rights fall generally into two categories: criminal justice and civil rights.

     

    Better for Criminal Justice

    • Long ago, the legislature believed that disenfranchisement would be a deterrent against crime; they thought that individuals would be less likely to commit felonies if people knew that they might lose their right to vote in addition to fines or imprisonment. However, no study has correlated the threat of losing one’s voting rights with reduction in crime. It is a policy that is not backed with evidence.

    • On the other hand, research links pro-social activities like voting to reduction in crime.[2]

    • Empirical study shows correlation between voting and lower recidivism, meaning ex-offenders who vote are less likely to commit a crime again in the future.[3]

    • Some people may believe that regardless of the above, ex-offenders should still lose their voting rights as punishment, as something that ex-offenders deserve. But our legal system is sophisticated enough to provide other alternative punishments that serve this retributive purpose. The question is not merely whether disenfranchisement is a retributive, but whether it is the best punishment compared to other options.

     

    Better for Civil Rights

    • Individuals interviewed about losing the right to vote express a feeling of being an “outsider” because they cannot vote.[4]

    • Children are more likely to vote as adults if they are raised by parents who engage in the voting process.[5]

    • Minnesota’s disenfranchisement rate of 1.5% is higher than most other states, and two-to-three times higher than most states in the north central region of the United States.[6]

    • Due to current felony disenfranchisement laws, voting-eligible individuals, election officials, and even courts have been confused about who is allowed to vote and when.[7] By restoring the vote to ex-offenders when they leave imprisonment, the moment in time when an ex-offender can vote is much clearer. It creates not only clarity for the ex-offender, but also an easier administrative burden on the state.

    • When the Minnesota Constitution first adopted felony disenfranchisement, only 75 crimes were felonies, but today over 375 crimes are felonies.[8] Disenfranchisement was only reserved for the worst kinds of crime, such as murder, and that no long seems to be the case. Felonies in Minnesota now include things like small-time burglary or minor drug possession.

    • ·Felony disenfranchisement disproportionally affects communities of color.[9]

     


    [1] Uggen, Christopher, and Suzy McElrath. "Draft Report on Felon Disenfranchisement in Minnesota." University of Minnesota Department of Sociology. (2012)

    [2] See Uggen, C. and Manza, J. (2004) “Voting and Subsequent Crime and Arrest: Evidence from a Community Sample,” Columbia Human Rights Law Review, Vol. 36, No. 1, 193-215, 213.

    [3] Id.

    [4] Id.

    [5] Gittell, Mary. "Empowering Citizens: From Social Citizenship to Social Capital." Social Capital and Social Citizenship. England: Lexington Books, 2003.

    [6] Haase, Mark. (2015) “Disenfranchisement in Minnesota,” Minnesota Law Review, Vol. 99, Issue 5, 1913-33, 1917.

    [7] Id. at 1929.

    [8] Id. at 1920.

    [9] In 2007 in Minnesota, over 10 percent of the black population, and nearly 17 percent of black males, could not vote because of felony disenfranchisement. Uggen, Christopher. Report on Felon Disenfranchisement in Minnesota. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Department of Sociology, 2009.

  • 26 Feb 2016 10:25 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    We received a great question in the email this morning, and wanted to provide our answer to everyone who might be asking the same question.

    Can an individual participate in a caucus if she will not be eligible to vote by Election Day (e.g., not a citizen, disenfranchised by felony conviction, or under 18)?

    Yes!

    As far as we are aware, non-voting observers are allowed at all party caucuses. While they may not vote, they may still observe the caucus or even help run it. Party representatives often encourage observers because observers tend to become active voters in later years when they become eligible to vote. The parties also might need observers to assist with running the caucuses as well, although that is not required. Being an observer at a caucus is an excellent way to introduce oneself to the democratic process and grassroots politics!

    You can watch a video by the League of Women Voters Minnesota, "Caucus: Power Up Your Vote," to hear interviews with DFL and GOP representatives about the caucus process at this link.  (They specifically discuss and extend invitations to observers at the 6:20 mark.)

    For more information on the caucuses, including contact information for the parties (including minor parties), you can use this link.

    You should contact the party of your preference to confirm if any procedures are required to be an observer at your caucus.

  • 13 Feb 2016 12:32 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Reprinted from an editorial in the Rochester Post-Bulletin

    The State's youngest voters should be watching the mail.

    The Minnesota secretary of state's office sent out thousands of birthday reminders last month to 18-year-olds who will be eligible to cast their first votes in the Aug. 9 primary elections or the Nov. 8 general election, not to mention participate in the March statewide presidential caucuses.

    Within nine months, the office expects to mail nearly 100,000 unregistered voters to encourage them to sign up. While most will be 18-year-olds who recently have earned the privilege, the program also will send notices to anyone voting age who receives a state driver's license or identification card with information that doesn't match voting records.

    "I strongly believe we should be doing everything we can to get good habits started early with young Minnesotans, and this outreach effort is an important step in that direction," Secretary of State Steve Simon said.

    It's an important and worthwhile message to send.

    In addition to showing Minnesota's newest voters the importance of joining the state's 3.1 million registered voters, it also aims to alleviate potential problems at the polls.

    While Election Day registration is available at the polls for unregistered voters, taking care of the paperwork early will help speed the process for the individual voter and decrease the potential of lines during peak hours. With a presidential race heating up and contests possible in all state Senate and House races, we expect the number of voters to be high in November.

    Simon noted that the effort goes beyond reducing lines and wait times, however. "By contacting voters on an ongoing basis, we can help ease the volume of voter registration applications received by counties in the last few weeks leading up to the election," he said.

    While much has been said about young voices weighing in on the presidential election in the national media, not enough has been done about encouraging those voices to make their marks on November ballots. While most would assume the two thoughts go hand in hand, too often the follow-through is left out of the picture.

    That's part of the reason Minnesota became an official Electronic Registration Information Center member through 2014 legislation, joining Washington D.C., and 12 other states in a consortium aimed at improving accuracy of state voter rolls and increasing outreach to unregistered voters. It's that membership that provides the data driving the new young voter recruitment effort.

    Ultimately, it's all key to making sure every vote counts and every potential voter has the opportunity to be heard.

  • 01 Feb 2016 2:39 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    On January 20, several members met to discuss the consensus questions for the LWV US Money In Politics Review. The following answers were adopted by consensus at that meeting and approved by the Board at their January meeting. ("__" indicates a possible answer was not selected; "X" indicates the selected answer.)

    PART I QUESTIONS: Democratic Values and Interests with Respect to Financing Political Campaigns

    1.    What should be the goals and purposes of campaign finance regulation? 
    (Please respond to each item in Question 1.)

    a.  Seek political equality for all citizens.
                X  Agree     __  Disagree     __  No consensus

    b.  Protect representative democracy from being distorted by big spending in election campaigns.
                X  Agree     __  Disagree     __  No consensus

    c.  Enable candidates to compete equitably for public office.
                X  Agree     __  Disagree     __  No consensus

    d.  Ensure that candidates have sufficient funds to communicate their messages to the public.
                X  Agree     __  Disagree     __  No consensus

    e.  Ensure that economic and corporate interests are part of election dialogue.
                __  Agree     __  Disagree     X  No consensus

    f.  Provide voters sufficient information about candidates and campaign issues to make informed choices.
                X  Agree     __  Disagree     __  No consensus

    g.  Ensure the public’s right to know who is using money to influence elections.  
                X  Agree     __  Disagree     __  No consensus

    h.  Combat corruption and undue influence in government.
                X  Agree     __  Disagree     __  No consensus

    2. Evaluate whether the following activities are types of political corruption:
    (Please respond to each item in Question 2.)

    a.    A candidate or officeholder agrees to vote or work in favor of a donor’s interests in exchange for a campaign contribution.
            X  Agree     __  Disagree     __  No consensus

    b.   An officeholder or her/his staff gives greater access to donors.
                __  Agree     __  Disagree     X  No consensus

    c.   An officeholder votes or works to support policies that reflect the preferences of individuals or organizations in order to attract contributions from them.
                X  Agree     __  Disagree     __  No consensus

    d.  An office holder seeks political contributions implying that there will be retribution unless a donation is given.
                X  Agree     __  Disagree     __  No consensus

    e.   The results of the political process consistently favor the interests of significant campaign contributors.
                __  Agree     __  Disagree     X  No consensus

    OPTIONAL COMMENTS (250 word limit):

    Question 1: Economic and corporate interests are two different things, and they should not dominate other interests such as social, labor, and environmental interests.

    Question 2: Activities (b) and (e) can be or could indicate political corruption, but it depends on the particular facts.

    PART II QUESTIONS:  First Amendment Protections for Speakers and Activities in Political Campaigns

    1.    Many different individuals and organizations use a variety of methods to communicate their views to voters in candidate elections.  Should spending to influence an election by any of the following be limited? (Please respond to each item in Question 1.)

    a.  Individual citizens, including wealthy individuals like George Soros and the Koch     Brothers.
        __ Spending banned    __ Some spending limits    __ Unlimited spending     X No consensus

    b.  Political Action Committees, sponsored by an organization, such as the League of Conservation Voters, Chevron, the American Bankers Association, and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), whose campaign spending comes from contributions by individuals associated with the sponsoring organization, such as employees, stockholders, members and volunteers.
        __ Spending banned    X Some spending limits    __ Unlimited spending     __ No consensus

    c.  For-profit organizations, like Exxon, Ben and Jerry’s, General Motors, and Starbucks, from their corporate treasury funds.
        __ Spending banned    X Some spending limits    __ Unlimited spending     __ No consensus

    d.  Trade associations, like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the American Wind Energy Association, and the American Petroleum Institute, from the association’s general treasury funds.
        __ Spending banned    X Some spending limits    __ Unlimited spending     __ No consensus

    e.  Labor unions, like the United Autoworkers and Service Employees International, from the union’s general treasury funds.
        __ Spending banned    X Some spending limits    __ Unlimited spending     __ No consensus

    f.  Non-profit organizations, like the Sierra Club, Wisconsin Right to Life, Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, American Crossroads, and Priorities USA, from the organization’s general treasury funds.
        __ Spending banned    X Some spending limits    __ Unlimited spending     __ No consensus

    g.  Non-partisan voter registration and GOTV (get out the vote) organizations and activities, like the LWV and Nonprofit Vote.
        __ Spending banned    __ Some spending limits    X Unlimited spending     __ No consensus

    h.  Political parties, like the Republicans, Libertarians, and Democrats.
        __ Spending banned    __ Some spending limits    X Unlimited spending     __ No consensus

    i.  Candidates for public office spending money the candidate has raised from contributors.
        __ Spending banned    __ Some spending limits    X Unlimited spending     __ No consensus

    j.  Candidates for public office spending their own money.
        __ Spending banned    __ Some spending limits    __ Unlimited spending     X No consensus

    2.  The press plays a major role in candidate elections through editorial endorsements, news coverage, and other communications directly to the public that are often important to the outcome.  Should such spending to influence an election by any of the following be limited?
    (Please respond to each item in Question 2.)

    a.  Newspapers, like the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.
        __ Spending banned    X Some spending limits    __ Unlimited spending     __ No consensus

    b.   Television and other electronic media, like Fox News, CNN. MSNBC and CBS.
        __ Spending banned    X Some spending limits    __ Unlimited spending     __ No consensus

    c.   Internet communications, like Huffington Post, Breitbart, Daily Kos, and individual bloggers.
        __ Spending banned    X Some spending limits    __ Unlimited spending    __ No consensus

    OPTIONAL COMMENTS (250 word limit):

    Question 1(i): We assume this concerns candidates spending from their own campaign fund for their own campaign, not for another candidate’s.

    PART III QUESTIONS:  Methods for Regulating Campaign Finance to Protect the Democratic Process

    1.    In order to achieve the goals for campaign finance regulation, should the League support? (Please respond to each item in Question 1 a and b.)

    a.   Abolishing SuperPACs and spending coordinated or directed by candidates, other than a candidate’s own single campaign committee.
                    X  Agree     __  Disagree     __  No consensus

    b.   Restrictions on direct donations and bundling by lobbyists? (Restrictions may include monetary limits as well as other regulations.)
                    X  Agree     __  Disagree     __  No consensus

    c.   Public funding for candidates?   Should the League support:
    (You may respond to more than one item in Question 1 c.)

    i.   Voluntary public financing of elections where candidates who choose to participate must also abide by reasonable spending limits?
                    X  Agree     __  Disagree     __  No consensus

    ii.   Mandatory public financing of elections where candidates must participate and abide by reasonable spending limits?
                    __  Agree     __  Disagree     X  No consensus

    iii.   Public financing without spending limits on candidates? 
                    __  Agree     X  Disagree     __  No consensus

    2.    How should campaign finance regulations be administered and enforced?
        (You may choose more than one response for Question 2.)

    __ a.  By an even-numbered commission with equal representation by the two major political     parties to ensure partisan fairness (current Federal Election Commission [FEC] structure)?

    X b.  By an odd-numbered commission with at least one independent or nonpartisan commissioner to ensure decisions can be made in case of partisan deadlock?

    X c. By structural and budget changes to the FEC (e.g., commission appointments, staffing, security, budget, decision making process) that would allow the agency to function effectively and meet its legislative and regulatory mandates.

    __ d.  No consensus.

    OPTIONAL COMMENTS (250 word limit):

    Question 2: We would prefer more than one nonpartisan, independent Commissioner.

  • 24 Jan 2016 8:55 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    With the presidential election coming up, we have a number of opportunities to help engage others in the political process, to discover voter registration needs, and to learn about the electoral process.

    Help Register Young Voters

    In April and May, we are looking for volunteers to conduct voter registration and education programs for eligible students in St. Paul high schools. We are also planning to partner with the Minnesota Justice Foundation to run a program called Street Law in area charter and alternative schools. In the program, law students will be conducting classes and League volunteers are needed to help register voters in classes for senior students.

    We'd love to welcome our returning volunteers as well as new volunteers to these upcoming opportunities. Please email mail@lwvsp.org or call 651-789-0118 if you'd like to learn more or to be notified of our upcoming voter registration plans.

    Learn More About The Elections

    To prepare for registering voters and learn more about the need for support this election cycle, we're encouraging our volunteers and members to attend Secretary of State Steve Simon's address on the state of the elections and corresponding workshops:

    • What happens at a precinct caucus? Join representatives from the two major parties to learn how to participate in each party’s precinct caucus process on Tuesday, March 1.
    • Building the next generation of poll workers. Learn how you can be involved with recruiting new people to serve as poll workers, with a special emphasis on bilingual citizens, youth, and people of color.

    The event takes place on Thursday, February 25 from 12:00 - 1:30 p.m. You can register here.

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