The sample ballots for each precinct are now up at the Secretary of State's site, which means I can see who the down-ticket candidates are and start doing my research.
But there's an interesting problem this year, which is that we're planning to move to St. Paul right before the election. My approach to this has usually been to research the races I'm actually voting in, then sharing my research with my friends. However, I'm not 100% sure we'll be moved by Election Day (we bought a new house, and are planning to move out of our current house before trying to sell it, so we have a lot of flexibility) plus I know all these people in Minneapolis who have come to rely on my endorsements (I am pretty sure I influence TENS or even possibly DOZENS of voters!) and I feel this sense of obligation.
So I am tentatively thinking I will do both cities. Only, the other thing is that due to this impending move I have ALL THIS STUFF GOING ON. Like I spent most of yesterday scraping wallpaper. The day before, I spent the morning doing phone calls for Minnesotans United for All Families, and the afternoon scraping wallpaper. Today is going to be paint scraping. Tomorrow is a day off from school for my kids. Last week involved the Birthdays (Kiera: 18th. Molly: 20th) and this weekend involves a birthday party and HA as if I've had time to track down information on obscure candidates, let alone write it up in a witty and useful way.
But I need to get started, so I might as well start with the top of the ticket / statewide stuff. You know, the races where I don't need to seek information because I'm already swimming in it (thank you, Facebook feed!) and where no one really cares about my endorsements except inasmuch as they're amusing to read.
(First, though, a note: the Minnesota Secretary of State has a site that lets you find your polling place, at http://pollfinder.sos.state.mn.us/
PRESIDENT: BARACK OBAMA
Is anyone reading this undecided on this one? Do I need to actually make a case for Obama?
I think he's done a good job (or as good as was possible under the circumstances) and he sure as hell beats the alternative. (Mitt Romney sent me a letter today that started out with the line, "Dear Naomi, I am running for President of the United States and because you are one of America's most notable Republicans, I want to personally let you know why." And then went on to hit me up for $75,800. I am not a Republican, and even the most basic database vetting ought to have tipped them off to that fact: my address alone means there's an 80% chance I always vote for Democrats. In 16 years of living here, I've never been to a Republican caucus.
I don't donate to any conservative groups. Anyway, as my friend Jason put it, "if Romney becomes president, his organization would be in charge of targeting more than just donor letters.")
CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT #1: RECOGNITION OF MARRIAGE SOLELY BETWEEN ONE MAN AND ONE WOMAN.
Shall the Minnesota Constitution be amended to provide that only a union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Minnesota?
I've actually been phone banking for Minnesotans United for All Families. The really interesting thing about this volunteer job is that I'm basically calling up total strangers (mostly in very conservative parts of the state), asking them how they're planning to vote on this amendment and how they feel about gay marriage, and then trying to persuade them to vote no. There's a script, but it's pretty open -- the only real requirement is that I have to be polite and gracious (well, as polite as possible given that I'm cold-calling people to argue with their politics. The ones who really aren't interested just hang up on me, for the most part.)
If anyone reading this is undecided, I would like to personally appeal to you to vote no. If this amendment fails, gay marriage will not become legal: there is, in fact, a law banning gay marriage already. Defeating this amendment will not change that -- rather, it will allow the conversation to continue.
One of the concerns I've heard raised is whether conservative churches will be required to officiate for gay marriages. They will not. No church is ever required to marry anyone they don't want to marry. Catholic churches are not under any obligation to marry Lutherans. This doesn't get them in trouble, even though it's perfectly legal for Lutherans to marry, and discrimination on religious grounds is illegal under many other circumstances. Jewish synagogues are not under any obligation to marry interfaith couples. There are churches that openly discriminate against interracial couples; this is viewed as repugnant by most people these days but it is, in fact, legal to discriminate in this way. No church is ever going to be forced to officiate for same-sex couples -- but as it stands, there are quite a few churches that would like to be able to legally marry same-sex couples and under the law, that isn't permitted.
This amendment will harm actual families, like my friends Jo and Jen. Their older son, Tristan, is old enough to be paying attention to this amendment and to understand that there are a lot of people in this state who think that his family is not okay.
Anyway. If I'm preaching to the choir here, I would strongly encourage all of you to talk to your friends and family. Of people who know actual GLBT people, 68% will vote against the amendment if their GLBT friends talk to them about it. If you're uncomfortable doing this, Minnesotans United actually offers training on how to have these conversations (because we are all Minnesotans! and talking about politics makes us uncomfortable!)
And if your friends and family are all choir members already, I would also strongly encourage you to volunteer for Minnesotans United. If phone banking is too intimidating, they have a lot of other volunteer jobs (including calling people who've agreed to volunteer to remind them, and doing data entry, and so on.)
AMENDMENT 2: PHOTO IDENTIFICATION REQUIRED FOR VOTING
Shall the Minnesota Constitution be amended to require all voters to present valid photo identification to vote and to require the state to provide free identification to eligible voters, effective July 1, 2013?
First of all, there are a lot more people than you realize who don't have government-issue photo IDs, and the barriers to getting them are a lot steeper than you might think. When I volunteered at Project Homeless Connect last year, I worked with a guy who had no ID. One of the services that PHC provides is helping people to get them when they don't have them, so we went through the process. He had lost ALL his ID (in an eviction, I think) -- birth certificate as well. The ID expert at the event gave him the form he needed to send away for the birth certificate from his home state, which was not Minnesota. It was complicated by the fact that he didn't have any ID to prove that he was the person whose birth certificate was on file; he was supposed to provide some random data like the hospital where he was born, which a lot of people do not know offhand. The birth certificate was going to be sent to St. Stephen's shelter and held for him there. Note that he doesn't live at this shelter -- he'd been couch-surfing, but he didn't know where he'd be in the 4-6 weeks that it was going to take to get his birth certificate. One it arrived, he could go to St. Stephen's and pick it up, then take it with a voucher down to the Hennepin County Government Center (in an entirely different part of town) and apply for a State ID, which would then also be sent to St. Stephen's.
This was a guy who had been couch-surfing for almost a year. He wasn't a drunk, he wasn't an addict, he wasn't a felon -- he'd just lost his job, and then lost his apartment, and then he had absolutely no idea what to do to get his life back on track. (He also wasn't getting any of the benefits to which he was entitled -- no food stamps, nothing. I helped him apply for those next.)
But you have to show a photo ID to buy alcohol, people say. To get on a plane. To cash a check.
Here's the thing. You don't actually have a constitutional right to buy alcohol, ride on an airplane, or cash a check. They're all legal activities, they're all things you probably want to do periodically, but they're not inalienable rights. You have the right to vote. If you're a U.S. citizen, 18 years or older, and you're not a felon (and in some states, even if you are a felon), you have the right to vote.
There are forms of vote fraud that I'm concerned about -- hacking of vote machines, for instance. The form of fraud that gets brought up by people who want the Voter ID law is felons and non-citizens voting, but this law would do absolutely nothing to prevent that. It would prevent voter impersonation -- which is vanishingly rare. Mostly this law would make it a whole lot harder for various groups to vote even though they have ever right to cast a ballot. Also, no one seems to know what the hell this law would due to absentee ballots.
Here are the candidates:
Minnesota Open Progressives
I'm going to vote for Amy Klobuchar. There was an amusing article in the paper today about Kurt Bills, the Republican who's running. The paper's poll found that Klobuchar had something like a 25-percentage-point lead. Bills was furious and indignant because his campaign's polling only showed a 19-percentage-point lead and he suggested they were inflating it because they were trying to help her win.
Most people in this state don't actually know who the hell Bills even is. If you'd asked me yesterday who was running against Klobuchar I would have said, "um, that high school Econ teacher dude. What's his name?"
Your other options -- okay, there's Stephen Williams, who's a member of the Independence party. These are the Jessecrats and they're a very mixed bag. He's from the "make the Air Force hold bake sales to buy bombers!" school of liberal policy.
The other people have Facebook pages instead of websites. I am not finding this trend any less annoying this year than in previous years. Before you click over to Tim Davis's page, I want you to pause for a minute and mentally visualize what you would expect a Senate Candidate from the "Grassroots Party" (which is the WEED FOR ALL party) to look like. Got it? Now go look. Actually, he sort of looks like a good 25% of the older men in Fandom, but if you're not running into him at a con, does he not look EXACTLY as a pothead hippy Senate candidate ought to look?
My admittedly brief perusal of Michael Cavlan's page leaves me completely uninformed about what he actually stands for. Look, people: this is why I hate Facebook pages as campaign sites. When I went to Stephen Williams's page, he had a link that said "Issues" and I could click on it and read what he said and get some idea of what he stood for. Facebook orders everything chronologically. I am very busy this year and don't have the time to dig endlessly just to figure out the basics of your political orientation. It's very nice that you are ON THE MARCH and "intend that we actually WIN THIS RACE!!!!!!!!!" and so on but that's not particularly helpful from a "why the hell should I actually vote for you over anyone else in this race?" standpoint.
Anyway! That concludes the Statewide and National Portion of my 2012 Election endorsements. I'll be back at some point with more. I may skip straight to the Soil & Water commissioners, since that's where I feel like I honestly provide a service. Or maybe I'll do the state legislative races, since Sharon Anderson is running in my part of St. Paul and she would be entertaining to talk about.