Constitution Guarantees Right to Vote, Not Fly on Plane or Buy Beer

Congressman Keith Ellison has turned his staff into a phone bank machine to defeat the Voter Restriction Constitutional Amendment on Minnesota’s ballot this November. All summer they have made tens of thousands of phone calls to Democratic-leaning voters to educate them about the consequences of what’s also known as Voter Photo ID.

Surprisingly, while those voters are eager to support DFL candidates, they often seem confused about the Voter Restriction Amendment. Ellison’s staff shared their views at a town hall meeting earlier this month in St. Louis Park.

Community organizer Andrew Virden described a common conversation that summed up the dilemma: “We ask people ‘hey, do you support the President?’ ‘Absolutely.’ ‘Do you support Amy Klobuchar?’ ‘Definitely.’ ‘How do you feel about Keith?’ ‘Man, I love Keith.’ ‘How about your DFL-endorsed state representative and state senator?’ ‘They’re fantastic.’ ‘Can we count on you to vote no on these two terrible amendments?’ ‘I don’t know, Voter ID seems like kind of a good idea. You need it to go clubbing or buy beer or fly on a plane.’”

“The Constitution doesn’t say anything about the right to fly in a plane, it doesn’t say anything about the right to buy a beer, but an awful lot of people did die for the right to vote,” Virden continued. “You have to have these conversations even with good, strong Democrats.”

“What I find effective is to talk to people about what happens if you lose your wallet the day before the election, because that’s something that everyone can relate to,” offered Elspeth Cavert, an Ellison fellow.

A woman in the audience claimed that, for every three phone calls she has made on behalf of Take Action Minnesota, she has changed one mind. “If this wins, it’s our fault,” she concluded.

“Everyone in this room knows somebody who’d be affected by Photo ID,” said Ellison re-election staffer and Iraq War veteran Alex Erickson. “Tell that story. What we know is that the more conversations we have with everyday Minnesotans about Photo ID, the more that they realize that this is a partisan, cynical strategy to disenfranchise people.”

“The point of this forum is action,” Congressman Ellison told The UpTake after the town hall. “We don’t need to convince these people. We need turn them, literally convert them, into activists who are gonna help us spread the word.”

See related stories about who the Voter Restriction Amendment would adversely affect:

• 
MN Voter Restriction Amendment would cause headaches for election judges

• Voting Rights should have been resolved during Civil Rights era

Voter ID dissuades rural poor from voting, says Mexican-American

• Voter Photo ID “a huge step backwards” for voting rights of disabled Minnesotans

• Iraq war vet sees voting rights under fire at home

Jacob Wheeler

In addition to shooting videos for The UpTake, Jacob Wheeler is a contributing editor at the progressive political magazine In These Times, publishes the Glen Arbor Sun in his native Michigan, and authored "Between Light and Shadow," a recent book about the Guatemalan adoption industry. Wheeler's stories have appeared in such magazines as the Utne Reader, Earth Island Journal, Rotarian and Teaching Tolerance magazine, and newspapers including the San Francisco Chronicle and Christian Science Monitor. He speaks fluent Spanish, German and Danish.

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