03 November 2012

Election is Almost Upon Us and Such

Tuesday is the election, something I am sure we have all heard about ad nauseum.

In August I left Indiana for Minnesota to start graduate school, and the transition has been an interesting one. Minnesota is an odd state - and I don't mean that in the Midwestern "I don't like it" sense, but in a "How does a place like this exist?" sense. It has a bit of a working flavor, yet is strongly environmental. It still has the Midwestern non-confrontational passive-aggressiveness, but has a niceness that isn't like the privacy of Indiana. Oh, and red lights essentially mean nothing to them. These are digressions though.

A big difference between Indiana and Minnesota involves politics. The two states are night and day. Indiana is Republican-dominated; Minnesota is Democrat-dominated. Indiana has early voting; Minnesota does not. Minnesota has same-day registration to vote (you can register to vote at the polls on election day); Indiana does not. Minnesota has three major parties and a number of minor parties; Indiana has two major parties and one minor party. It is just a different political world here. While some things annoy me (aka no early voting), I rather like other details (same-day registration, many parties, ranked ballots for local elections, etc.).

Minnesota could be undergoing a transformation soon though. In 2010 Minnesota fell to the same trap much of the rest of the country did - the Republican wave. In that wave the Republicans took control of Minnesota General Assembly. They used this to try to pull a trick on the voters - a voter photo ID amendment. Currently Minnesota doesn't have a photo ID law for voting. People can bring in general forms of ID (government issued, a bill, being vouched for by a neighbor who can prove their identity) and vote. The system works pretty well in Minnesota, and helps a few groups of voters, particularly three - students, the elderly, and people of color. Students aren't likely to have a government issued ID with their current address because they are (1) living on campus and (2) moving frequently. A student ID is all somebody living in a residence hall needs (as the universities provide lists of these), and of course a bill works for those living off campus. While I went and got a Minnesota ID (my Indiana one expired in October), many don't need to so don't. The elderly and people of color are more likely to not have birth certificates. While state IDs don't require birth certificates, many of the documents that are an alternative to a birth certificate require a birth certificate to get. Thus, while the voter ID itself may be made free, one won't necessarily be able to get all the documentation together to get one for free. Also, the elderly, people of color, and students are less likely to drive/own a car, and thus getting a voter ID may not be the easiest. Thus a voter photo ID law can seriously hurt their ability to vote. I've heard the argument that an ID is needed to buy alcohol, so why not vote, but that argument is silly. Buying alcohol is a privileged (as the 18th Amendment should show us), whereas voting is a right. Plus, informed voting is important for our democratic republic to run, buying alcohol is not. Plus, the address issue is not an issue with buying alcohol.

Let's be honest, the voter photo ID law is an attempt to favor Republicans. By going after students and people of color, the Republicans can lessen the lead Democrats have in this state. I'm afraid it stands a good chance of passing too. People seem to think there is this huge voter fraud issue, but not very many cases exist. Headlines note things like, "Voter Fraud: It's Real, but Rare," and "UFO Sightings are More Common than Voter Fraud." In Minnesota, one election was noted for a number of ineligible felons voting. It was later realized that wasn't the case. It should also be noted that this issue would not necessarily be resolved with voter photo ID as the issue would be with the system to ensure people who register to vote are also eligible.

The other amendment on the ballot is the Marriage Discrimination Amendment. Minnesota is one of the states that have managed to avoid a marriage amendment issues, but Republicans probably sensed it was the last election they may be able to get a ban here in Minnesota and managed to get it onto the ballot. This vote has me incredibly nervous. I have been asked a number of times how I think it is going to go, and I just note I think it is going to be close. The polls are very close, within the margin of error. Another issue is the Bradley Effect. The Bradley effect is the idea that non-whites fair worse in elections than polls would suggest, and the Bradley effect has been expanded to explain why marriage discrimination amendments do better than they poll.

The Vote No forces have had a great campaign.
Unlike in California they have always acted from the standpoint of assuming we are going to lose, and working like crazy to change that outcome. Vote No stuff has been everywhere. Major politicians (like the Senate candidate) has been openly campaigning against it. When the US Senate candidate Amy Klobuchar and the Mayor of Minneapolis R.T. Rybak walked in the University of Minnesota homecoming parade, both of their contingents had Vote No signs and chanted Vote No. We have also raised WAY more money. The Vote No campaign has raised $10 million while vote yes has raised $3.6 million. Both campaigns have pretty frequent ads. The Vote No ads leave something to be desired, but aren't bad. They are essentially a bunch of straight couples talking about why they are Voting No. The most powerful of our ads is the one that is different - talking about a Gay soldier who died. The vote yes campaign has run the same ad they are running in the other states with marriage ballot questions. It is also an ad they have run in a few other states with the idea that same-sex marriage will be taught in schools. One of our ads that runs on TV was modified to point out the lies in this ad before the rest of the ad goes on.

I don't know how the ballot initiatives will go. I hope that Minnesotans reject both of amendments. I certainly will be voting against them. I'm nervous about the results though. I'm definitely glad my cohort for my grad program will be getting together to watch the results come in. I had planned on going to celebrate/protest, but I think being with my graduate cohort will be a healthier alternative for me. Granted I think it is likely we won't know the result of the marriage discrimination amendment that night, and a recount would not surprise me. Three other states will also have marriage equality on their ballot: Maine, Maryland, and Washington. These three states will have marriage equality depending on the outcome of these ballot questions. I hope that these states give me a reason to celebrate. It will all come down to time.

If the Minnesota marriage discrimination amendment passes, I'm pretty sure I will question why I came here. Grad school is already a large emotional roller coaster. Some days I absolutely love it and know I made the right choice. Other days I question why I am putting myself through this. It is a completely different world from undergrad. I had an amazing undergrad experience, and I'm still trying to find my grove in grad school, so I assume part of the roller coaster will even out. There are a few things I am working on that I know will also help me to feel more at home here. Also, the marriage discrimination amendment has been something that I have been aware of ever since I got here. Luckily I live nestled between the two cities (in Saint Paul, but only a block or two away from where Minneapolis starts). I'm surrounded by Vote No everywhere, and that is comforting. Commercials on TV haven't been all that comforting though (Nathan, Joe, and I have taken to watching the New Normal).

Also, since I can't end a blog about the elections without encouraging people to vote for Obama, I give the following hilarious video:

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