Week of Action for Democracy

DAY 1:  Rep Ellison, Minnesotans Speak Out Against Voter Photo ID

From the Uptake:

Congressman Keith Ellison wants Minnesotans to go to their precinct caucuses Tuesday night and demand that the right to vote does not carry the precondition of having a government issued photo ID.

Minnesota Republicans are backing a constitutional amendment that would require a photo ID to vote. While it sounds like a simple requirement, Ellison says it is a solution in search of a problem and is aimed at disenfranchising thousands of eligible voters.

Watch the video at the link above.

DAY 2: Religious Leaders at the Capitol: ‘We Need Everyone’s Voice to Keep Minnesota Great’

Letter signed by hundreds of interfaith leaders delivered to House and Senate leadership and cosponsors of photo ID amendment bill

Religious leaders of various faiths held a press conference in room 125 of the Minnesota State Capitol voicing their opposition to the proposed constitutional amendment requiring a photo ID for the purpose of voting. Following the press conference, those assembled delivered a copy of a letter opposing the amendment to House and Senate leadership and co-sponsors of the bill. The letter was signed by hundreds of interfaith leaders — both clergy and laity — throughout Minnesota.

A copy of the text of the letter is below.

Pastor Grant Stevensen of St. Matthews Lutheran Church in St. Paul and President of ISAIAH joined more than a dozen interfaith leaders at the press conference. He said, “Democracy with one vote for one person defines who we are as Americans. It is precious. It is also tender and is capable of being ruined. The most American thing to do is everything we can to protect it.”

Rev. Dr. Charles Gill of Pilgrim Baptist Church in St. Paul noted the many hardships facing the African-American community at a time of great economic stress. “I hear the cries of the people as I walk the streets of my community,” Gill said. “I hear the pains that they are experiencing as a result of a lack of income and the housing crisis. Without a vote, they do not stand a chance. Without a vote, there is a threat to steal their opportunity for a pursuit of happiness.”

Rev. Paul Erickson of the St. Paul Area Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America passionately called on all Minnesotans to protect the voice and vote of their neighbors. “I care about a Minnesota in which all people have a voice,” Erickson said. This constitutional amendment to require a photo ID in order to vote would take away the voice of thousands of Minnesotans and it is wrong. We cannot, we should not, we must not use our constitution as a means to silence the voices of our brothers and sisters. We need everyone’s voice to keep Minnesota great.”

This event was organized by ISAIAH, Jewish Community Action, the Stairstep Foundation, His Works United, the Minnesota State Baptist Convention and Somali Action Alliance.

DAY 3 New Report Documents Money’s Role in “The 1% vs Democracy in Minnesota”

New Report Details Banking Money Behind Photo ID Amendment Push, Who Wins When People Can’t Vote

St. Paul, MN — On Wednesday morning, TakeAction Minnesota released a new report exposing the network of money that helped land Republican majorities in both the Minnesota House and Senate in 2010 and the financial interests behind legislative efforts to secure a photo ID amendment on the November 2012 ballot. The report, entitled “The 1% vs. Democracy in Minnesota: Following the Money Behind the Photo ID Amendment,” places executives from Minnesota’s three largest banks – Wells Fargo, U.S. Bank and TCF – at the center of the effort to restrict voter rights in Minnesota.

Dan McGrath, Executive Director of TakeAction Minnesota told reporters that “over the past week, we’ve learned a lot about who would lose if photo ID becomes law — over 700,000 eligible Minnesota voters, including seniors, low-income persons, students, people of color, disabled and rural Minnesotans. What hasn’t been discussed is who WINS when people can’t vote. That’s what this report outlines.”

McGrath walked reporters through the report’s key findings via two large charts displayed next to the podium which explained how banking executives put members of ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) in the House leadership and then placed an attack on the voting rights of Minnesotans at the top of the 2012 legislative agenda. Voter ID legislation was initially introduce by Representative Mary Kiffmeyer when the new majorities took office.

The first chart showcased an extensive network of money flowing from banks down to bank-led political entities including Minnesota Forward, the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, the Minnesota Business Partnership, the Bankers’ Association, and the Coalition of Minnesota Businesses, who then financed independent expenditure campaigns instrumental in electing the new Republican majorities. Jon Campbell, Wells Fargo Executive Vice-President, chairs the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce. Richard Davis, President of U.S. Bank, serves as President of the Minnesota Business Partnership.

The second chart detailed banking contributions to individual House and Senate candidates, all of whom are backing or leading photo ID legislative efforts, including House Speaker Kurt Zellers and House Majority Leader Matt Dean.

  • The independent expenditures from the Coalition of Minnesota Businesses and Chamber of Commerce helped elect twelve new Republican legislators in 2010.
  • The Coalition and Chamber spent an average of $28,300 per campaign, an average of 34% of the total money in each race.
  • On average, the amount of independent expenditures from the Coalition and Chamber were almost twice as much as the total contributions raised by the candidates themselves.

McGrath explained that “it’s important that Minnesotans understand the source of the large-scale campaign funding that stands behind many of the legislators pushing the photo ID amendment.” The effects of the banking money disproportionately impact the very citizens who most need to use the democratic process to counter the influence of the super-wealthy and the political entities they finance.

Gene Nichols, a member of TakeAction Minnesota Board of Directors from Shoreview, also spoke at the news conference saying he opposes photo ID efforts “because I do not want to go back to the time of my great-grandparents in Virginia who were denied the right to vote. As African-Americans, often the ONLY voice they had was their constitutional right to vote.” Nichols said TakeAction Minnesota values an inclusive politics where “every voice counts.”

McGrath concluded saying “we know all the constituencies who will lose if photo ID legislation passes. What Minnesota needs to worry about is the richest 1% who will gain even more than they already have, at the continued expense of the other 99%.”

Through its Democracy program, TakeAction Minnesota has worked for over eight years to protect and expand voting participation in Minnesota, removing barriers to voting and ensuring poll access for all law abiding voters. The organization sees photo ID legislation for what it is: an intentional effort to reduce the voting rolls in order to help corporate conservatives further expand their wealth and power.

To read the full report, “1% vs. Democracy in Minnesota: Following the Money Behind the Photo ID Amendment,” please go to TakeAction Minnesota, or download a pdf here.

DAY 4: Day of Action at the State Capitol and Wells Fargo

Over 400 Minnesotans gathered at the State Capitol and at Wells Fargo Place in downtown Saint Paul to raise their voices in opposition to the proposed photo ID amendment. The Democracy Day of Action took place following a week of growing momentum for the campaign to oppose the amendment, which is being led by TakeAction Minnesota and its progressive partners.

Attendees walked in silence around both legislative chambers, wearing hundred-dollar-bill stickers across their mouths, symbolizing the efforts by the top 1% to silence their voices. The silence eventually ended, as members of the 99% raised their voices against the photo ID amendment.

Superintendent Celester Webb of the Minnesota Jurisdiction of the Church of God in Christ spoke to the crowd and noted that for many Minnesotans, including himself, the ramifications of the amendment would be personal. “We know this would disproportionately affect those that are already disenfranchised,” Webb said.

“My mother is 84 years old, part of what has been called our greatest generation. She was born in Mississippi and does not have a birth certificate. If this passes, she would not be able to vote. I say no to this amendment—and say that we need to question the motivation behind it. “

Dan McGrath, Executive Director of TakeAction Minnesota told the crowd outside of the House chambers, “There are far too many here in this place who have been told by the 1% that voter ID is what we need. It is not. This is this people’s house and our voices, and votes, will not be silenced.”

Following the Capitol rally, attendees filled buses headed to Wells Fargo Place in downtown Saint Paul for a public action taking the pro-democracy message to the 1%. They walked to the downtown St. Paul branch of Wells Fargo in silence, carrying signs and again wearing the hundred-dollar-bill stickers.

A banner created by the Rogue Citizen Art Collective was lowered from the second level of the atrium, while hundreds stood silently in front of the bank branch.

Following several moments of silence, the crowd called on Wells Fargo to stop funding the agenda of the 1%.

To learn more about why the Voter ID amendment is wrong for Minnesota, visit Our Voices Count MN

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