Letters: Provisional ballots just make sense; foreign aid pays off
Provisional ballots are a common-sense solution
In 2015, an election regarding a $96 million building bond in South Washington County Schools passed by only five ballots. Voters on all sides of the issues must be confident in the performance of election officials and the validity of every election, no matter how close.
Under current election law, there are well-known, substantial and correctable defects that undermine the validity of close elections in our state. Provisional ballots provides a major step forward in correcting these defects.
Voters are shocked and surprised when they learn that the current election system provides no authority for blocking a known ineligible person from casting a ballot if the ineligible person swears they are allowed to vote. Even if election officials know with certainty that the person is a felon or non-citizen, the state is powerless to stop an ineligible person from casting an irretrievable ballot.
If a judge convicts me of a felony in July and removes my right to vote, I can enter a polling place in November and vote even if the record indicates "challenged-felony." All I have to do is swear I'm eligible.
Senate bill 1225 contains corrections to this and other critical flaws in election law. Provisional ballots allow the setting aside of a ballot inside a confidential envelope of a suspected ineligible person until voter eligibility can be verified. Unfortunately, Republican House members refused to hear this important proposed improvement to election law in the House.
Forty-seven states have provisional ballots and they are effective at ensuring the right to vote for every eligible person while enabling the state to protect election results from those whose votes must not be counted. It's time for Minnesota to support provisional ballots.
Helping other countries helps the U.S.
The current presidential administration decries that the U.S. spends too much on foreign aid. But what do the numbers really say?
Throughout his presidential campaign Donald Trump touted that the U.S. spends too much on helping other countries and vowed to change that. Mick Mulvaney, the current budget director, reiterated that stance in a St. Patrick's Day news conference. This begs the question: How much does the U.S. spend on foreign aid anyway?
"Surveys show that many of our citizens think we devote a full quarter or even a third of our federal budget to foreign aid," said former Secretary of State John Kerry. However, the real percentage isn't in the double digits. Shockingly, it's not even 1 percent. According to the Committee for a Responsible Budget, the U.S. spends 0.7 percent of its coffers on foreign aid. This coming at a time where there is a refugee crisis in the Middle East and a hunger crisis in Africa. "At the beginning of the year we are facing the largest humanitarian crisis since the creation of the United Nations," warns U.N. humanitarian chief Stephen O'Brien. Many of the president's followers hold the belief that helping other countries provides no benefit for the U.S. However, history has shown the opposite. Several countries that once received foreign aid are now trade partners with the U.S. Developing nations has also been shown to reduce violence and terrorism. "Foreign assistance is an insurance policy. Investing over there, even though we have needs here, makes us safer," stated U.S. Sen. Lindsay Graham. Maybe in order to truly "Make America Great Again," the current administration may need to lend out more of a helping hand.