Yes and no on the Constitutional amendments [UPDATED]Published 11:09am Thursday, November 1, 2012 Updated 1:12pm Thursday, November 1, 2012
We need to look at the two constitutional amendments from a dispassionate, strictly process oriented point of view. Constitutions (State and Federal) were created and emplaced to establish our form of government and the processes and procedures we use to govern ourselves. Included are defined what constitutes citizenship and the guarantees that assure the rights and privileges of every citizen are not abridged.
The genius of our system is that checks and balances have been built into our system so that a control mechanism will not allow any one branch to control another — keep each other honest, so-to-speak.
Within Minnesota’s constitution, however, exists a loophole, which allows a simple majority to by-pass the checks and balances that ought be sacred. With this in mind, consider the two amendments.
First, the Voter ID amendment. Determining who among the citizenship is eligible to vote has historically been with the Legislature. At one time eligibility was limited to those male voters of a certain age who were landholders.
Then it expanded to include more of the male population. This was at a time when our country was young and people (voting men) were assumed to be essentially virtuous and honest.
As women became more prominent and productive in the economy and society, the voting right was extended to women and this only after a vigorous political fight. Virtue and honor among some politicians went by the wayside.
There were people determined to deny that right to women, no doubt because they feared women would not support their political positions on issues.
Ultimately, a Constitutional amendment was required to assure uniform application of women’s voting rights across all of the States.
Some States enacted “Jim Crow” laws — poll taxes and literacy test laws — to impede the ability of black voters to exercise their right to vote.
Again, a Constitutional amendment was required to assure minorities the right to vote.
Now we have the Voter ID, or photo amendment proposal within Minnesota but Minnesotan’s need not despair, however. We still have a Constitutional check to ensure uniform and universal suffrage for all of our citizens. The Minnesota Secretary of State is an independently elected official. He/She may or may not be of the same political party as the Governor. As such, the Secretary of State is not beholden to the existing State Governor, nor, directly, to the Legislature.
The Secretary of State is the chief election official in the State. It is the Secretary of State that will establish the administrative rules and procedures by which the photo ID requirement is implemented.
By law, the State is required to insure every eligible voter in Minnesota is registered and provided the means to vote. There can be no cost to the voter required for the exercise of their right to vote– no indirect poll tax.
If a photo ID is required and any voter does not have one already, the state provides it at no cost, period. The current proposed amendment is shoddily put together and should go back to the legislature for clarification. I recommend voting NO this time around on this amendment.
Second, the Defense of Marriage amendment. This is an issue that has nothing to do with the form of our government or the processes and procedures by which we govern ourselves.
It therefore belongs in the realm of the legislature to go through the rough and tumble of legislative debate, executive veto, supermajority override and still be subject to judicial review for uniformity and fair application; and, if it comes to it, the electoral process where the people vote for legislators that will be willing to vote to override or sustain an executive veto.
The Constitution is supposed to guarantee our freedoms, not restrict them. Legislation can set goals and boundaries of which the marriage amendment is one, but these are to be debated. “We the People” need to be careful of what we vote for.
Incremental restrictions sneak up on you. Ask the people of Russia and Germany what they learned the hard way.
What will the next Constitutional restriction be? It is best if this issue is passed back to the Legislature and the checks and balances let to work. I recommend we vote NO on the Marriage amendment.