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Minnesota political news from an insider’s perspective.
The DFL Election Agenda
There is a tradition in the Minnesota legislature that bills dealing with election law achieve bi-partisan support. Governors Tim Pawlenty and Mark Dayton each abided by this tradition and refused to sign election law changes that didn’t have bi-partisan support. The premise being that election law, by its nature, is highly political, so changes should have support in both parties.
After supporting the tradition in his first term, Gov. Tim Walz suddenly has no use for it now that his party controls the House and Senate. In fact, Democrats in the Minnesota legislature have a very aggressive agenda to change voter laws this session. All of their rhetoric involves some imaginary threat to democracy. All of their changes will result in more Democrats voting in the next election.
Minnesota’s justice system is heavily reliant on probation. We are in the bottom ten states in the country for incarceration rates. Felons serve one-third of their sentence in prison and the remaining two-thirds on probation. As our revolving door of justice problem shows, it takes a lot to actually end up in a Minnesota prison. To make matters worse from a criminal justice standpoint, the Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines Commission recently voted to make all probation recommendations less than five years.
With that backdrop, Democrats want to allow convicted felons to vote even before their sentence is finished (in other words, once they are out of prison). Many felons never spend a day in prison so after this change, they will never lose their right to vote.
The Secretary of State’s office estimates the change will allow 55,000 people to vote before their sentence is completed. House Republicans offered several amendments including one that would exempt criminals convicted of voter fraud. Alas, all amendments were rejected on party-line votes. We don’t have definitive polling, but convicted felons probably lean Democrat. That was sarcasm. Of course they lean Democrat.
Automatic Voter Registration
This proposed change would automatically register everyone who receives a driver’s license or state ID card to vote. Right now, Minnesotans are given the option of automatic registration — all they have to do is check the box when they apply for a license. This change dovetails nicely with another Democrat priority allowing illegal aliens in Minnesota to acquire a driver’s license. But don’t worry, Secretary of State Steve Simon assures us no one will be registered who is not eligible to vote.
Democrats also plan to let 16 and 17-year-olds register to vote, even though they can’t vote until they’re 18. The stated reason for this is to get young people used to the registration process. Again, Secretary Simon assures us, no one will accidentally be allowed to vote at age 17 even though they are on the list of voters. We do have polling showing young people vote for Democrats more than Republicans.
Lifetime Absentee List
The most dangerous change from a voter fraud standpoint is the creation of a lifetime absentee voter list, so voters won’t have to ask for a ballot each election. Making voting “automatic” under the guise of convenience is inviting fraud. Campaign workers will no longer have to “chase” absentee ballots through the process. Instead, they will door-knock the lifetime absentee list, knowing exactly when ballots will land in the mail for each county. This will increase the opportunity for fraud like what Project Veritas found in the 2020 primary in Minneapolis. They exposed campaign operatives intercepting ballots at the mailboxes of large apartment complexes and forcing people to fill them out before taking them en masse to the county. Of course we know Democrats have been much more likely to vote absentee in recent elections.
Another “automatic” process proposed by Democrats is their Democracy Dollars program, which would replace the Political Contribution Refund program. Each voter would automatically receive $50 in Democracy Dollar coupons that can be sent to the candidate or political party of their choice. Again, for the sake of convenience, the process can be automated by third parties so voters could simply designate where they want their taxpayer-funded political contribution to go. Imagine the fraud involved in computer software programs automatically sending money from the state treasury to political parties. At least with the PCR program, a voter has to initiate the process, send a donation to a candidate and wait for a refund from the state. Which party in Minnesota do you think will take better advantage of this program?
Ranked Choice Voting
Five cities in Minnesota currently use ranked choice voting for their local elections. Democrats want to take this concept state-wide and use it for governor, Congress and the state legislature. American Experiment’s Bill Glahn has written extensively (here, here and here) about ranked choice voting and his conclusion may surprise you: the practice always pushes the electorate to the left, sometimes the extreme left. Not surprising given our theme that Democrats are pushing for ranked choice voting in Minnesota.
National Popular Vote
Why would anyone in Minnesota advocate for a national voting system that will drive presidential campaigns to the coasts and big cities while ignoring states in the Midwest? Fear of Donald Trump is your answer. Some believe without the electoral college, Donald Trump never would have occupied the White House. Democrats like Steve Simon are so afraid of another Trump presidency they are willing to sacrifice Minnesota’s influence in picking a president.
National popular vote, ranked choice voting and the Democracy Dollars plan might be too hard for Democrats to explain to voters so they might not pass this session. But the other election law changes will probably pass the legislature and be signed by Governor Tim Walz, bi-partisanship be damned.
Senate Republican Bonding Strategy
Senate Republicans held a press conference on Thursday announcing an intriguing strategy connecting the bonding bill with the tax bill. Senate Republican Leader Mark Johnson (R-East Grand Forks) told the press Republican Senators will not support a bonding bill until some form of tax cuts are passed. This is the proverbial can’t have dessert before you eat your vegetables. It’s a good message for Republicans to sell to the public. Before we add billions to the credit card with a bonding bill, let’s show Minnesotans how we’re going to cut their taxes.
For this to work, Johnson will have to keep his caucus together on the strategy. It only takes a few Republicans to flake off and join the Democrats in supporting a bonding bill. Democrats will probably call their bluff and force Republicans to actually vote down a bonding bill. Remember, adding debt requires a supermajority vote. Once that happens (assuming Republicans stick together), Johnson will have the power to negotiate for a better bill. There is also a chance Democrats will use cash for the bonding projects, negating the need for Republican votes. Speaker of the House Melissa Hortman calls it the “with or without you bill.” If the projects are paid for with cash, that will prevent the surplus from being spent on other things, which is also a win.
Media Watch — Mark Ritchie Banned!
Former DFL Secretary of State Mark Ritchie has been barred from future participation in the Feeding Our Future free-food program. Seems like that would be big news, but outside of a mention toward the bottom of a Star Tribune article, the press ignored it. Good thing American Experiment’s Bill Glahn noticed and wrote about it here.
Minnesota political news from an insider’s perspective.
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