There is a prediction that in early 5773, the Jewish people will stray from their covenant with G-d, making G-d not so visible in their lives. But luckily, there is a chance to change it if the people live rightly on this planet. Hence, there is hope, even when it appears we have deviated from our sacred covenant.
Today, we live in an upside down world. Here in Minnesota, in 5773, things have been turned upside down and we have been forced to make a choice: walk the path of justice; or ignore our necessary mutual support, our covenant with what is Holy and with one another.
This year in November, we are being asked to choose. We will be asked two seemingly simple questions on the ballot: shall marriage be defined as only between a man and a woman; and should the state of Minnesota require a government issued ID to vote in an election. The answer in both cases is no.
Jewish Community Action, along with the Minnesota Rabbinic Association and countless members of our community and allies, has spoken out against the proposed Marriage Amendment. This amendment would use our state’s constitution to limit the freedom to marry and will essentially end the conversation about same-sex marriage. It would mean sending a message that loving, committed couples of the same gender and their families don’t deserve the same dignity, recognition, and respect as their straight counterparts. It would mean sending a message that some of us have rights and some of us don’t, some of us are protected, and some of us are not. Thankfully, overall, the Jewish community has done an excellent and outspoken job in working to defeat the Marriage Amendment.
Now, thanks to people all over the state who have been working hard to make sure people know the not-so-benign nature of the Voter ID Amendment, there is hope that it can be defeated. Recent polls show a shift from about 80% support for the amendment to just over 50% support. Voter ID would effectively create barriers to voting for multiple communities; including seniors, young people, disabled people, military personal, low income people and communities of color. It would effectively eliminate same day voting, absentee voting and the vouching system as we know it, and force the creation of a costly provisional balloting system. In the last election, over 500,000 voters utilized same day registration. And more, the proposed Voter ID Amendment would be one of the most restrictive in the nation, and this in a state with the greatest election integrity.
While the Marriage Amendment would take away rights, the Voter ID Amendment has the potential to take away rights and power; from eligible voters, from community organizing efforts of the smallest to largest scale, and more. It would undo work began by previous generations to ensure access to voting. The proposed Amendment would in reality act like a poll tax, the legal welcoming of Jim Crow into our state constitution. Consider this: in states with a history of widespread and systematic voter discrimination, such as Texas and Mississippi, who face a stiffer process in any changes to the voting system, the courts have struck down attempts to pass similar legislation and amendments. This in part because, for various reasons, many do not possess IDs that reflect their current address. Consider this: 18% of elderly citizens and 18% of 18-24 year olds, 15% of voters earning less than $35, 10% of voters with disabilities and 25% of African Americans do not have accurate government issued photo identification. All in all, this could mean the disenfranchisement of over 200,000 eligible voters in Minnesota
If passed, the Voter ID Amendment would also create an unfunded mandate, causing tax payers to bear the burden. The Amendment has language that the state would provide free identification to those in need. However, the term free is far from accurate. The Humphrey Institute estimates this would cost 32.9 million for the first year, with 29 million going to the cost of new poll books. As well, 85% of costs would be borne by counties, leading to cuts in services and increases in property taxes.
If you still think this is a good idea, you can stop reading now. If you can’t decide, leave it blank on your ballot. After all, the not-yet-picked 2013 legislators would be writing the actual legislation on the Amendment, so we can’t even fully know what we are voting on. This alone is cause for concern.
If you see, like us, that passage of the Voter ID Amendment would have negative implications for all Minnesotans, then please Vote No with us on November 6th. And while you are at it, in the lead up to the election, help us spread the word on why Jewish Community Action is Voting No. Join us for a phone bank or door knock, help coordinate an event, put up a lawn sign, or simply practice the art of conversation. We need all the help we can get to make sure neither of these amendments pass.
Let 5773 be the year that we say, we are choosing justice, we are choosing to honor our covenant with one another, and we are choosing to respect the rights of all in our communities. Vote No, and choose to embrace hope and optimism in the New Year. For more info contact any of us at Jewish Community Action, 651.632.2184 or www.jewishcommunityaction.org.
Photo courtesy Kamil Dadashev.