Resident's Viewpoint: National group pushing Minnesota’s buttonsHave you wondered why in the last several years (when you'd really think economic issues would be front and center) many states have made it a priority to pass voter ID laws? Is it that voter fraud is suddenly running rampant, or that legislators were unaware of it before? Neither is the case.
By: Carol Turnbull, Woodbury Bulletin
Have you wondered why in the last several years (when you'd really think economic issues would be front and center) many states have made it a priority to pass voter ID laws? Is it that voter fraud is suddenly running rampant, or that legislators were unaware of it before? Neither is the case.
The push for voter ID legislation was instigated by a little-known (until recently) organization called the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). ALEC's agenda also includes union-busting, undermining environmental protection, privatizing schools and prisons, "stand your ground" gun laws (like that of Florida), etc. ALEC is comprised of 300 private corporations, such as Koch Industries and ExxonMobil, plus more than 2,000 state legislators. Corporate members pay thousands of dollars in annual fees while legislators pay $50. ALEC subsidizes trips for legislators and their families to attend conventions at lavish locations (up to $1,900 per legislator in "scholarships" for 2011) where they also "bond" over dinners, golf outings, and other events.
ALEC doesn't just influence laws, it literally writes them, supplying drafted bills to legislators and then encouraging them to introduce these "cookie-cutter" bills in their respective states as though they were their own ideas. ALEC's own website brags that 1,000 pieces of legislation based on its bills are introduced each year, and about 20 percent become law. Says former state Rep. Jeremy Kalin, “Corporate interests that would otherwise be required to register as lobbyists are writing legislation behind closed doors.”
ALEC's focus on voter ID began after the 2008 election, when Obama was elected in a record turnout with strong support from college students and African-Americans. ALEC was not happy, and its members approved “model” voter ID legislation in 2009 with the intention of making the voting process more difficult for those likely to vote Democratic. Republican legislators introduced ALEC's voter ID law in nearly 40 states, and it passed in a number of them.
Rep. Mary Kiffmeyer – responsible for the bill to put voter ID on our ballot for the coming election in an attempt to enshrine it in our Constitution – was ALEC's Minnesota chairperson as of 2011. John Gibbs of Comcast was the state's private sector chairperson; the two serve concurrently. Last August, Kiffmeyer attended ALEC's conference at the Marriott in New Orleans. She served on one of their "task forces." Twenty-four other Minnesota legislators (all Republicans) are also members of ALEC. The membership list of legislators, corporations, and other entities is available at www.sourcewatch.org.
A lot of dust has been raised over whether voter fraud exists, or if this law would disenfranchise voters. But maybe we should be asking some different questions. Why is this shadowy organization determined to change states' voting laws? Do we really want huge corporations thus influencing our lawmakers and drafting our legislation? Shouldn't those we elect be writing laws for the benefit of Minnesotans rather than serving billionaires? Isn't Minnesota's state Constitution our own business? This is outrageous, and it appears (former Secretary of State) Rep. Kiffmeyer and other legislators have sold us out.
Turnbull is a Woodbury resident