Religious Leaders Oppose MN Voter Photo ID

Religious leaders of various faiths hold a press conference at 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 deliver a copy a letter opposing the amendment to House and Senate leadership and co-sponsors of the bill (video here). The letter has been signed by hundreds of interfaith leaders throughout Minnesota.

Video of full news conference:

Transcript of video highlights clip:
Pastor Grant Stevensen, St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church, President of ISAIAH:

One of the most despicable aspects of the current political scene is how callous operators have adopted a strategy of announcing false statements and practicing distortion in an effort to have trusting folk vote against their own interests and the best interest of our state. Historically Minnesotans have been proud to lead the nation in voter participation. Now we have operatives that want us to join a well designed national orchestrated effort to suppress votes. That’s how I would characterize this season in which cynical decisions have been made to move in wolf-like fashion wearing lambs’ fleece to restrict voting.

Why else would loud voices rush into the media marketplace, guns drawn, protecting Minnesota from voter impersonation, when they know full well that there’s been no, that is to say zero cases of voter impersonation identified in the state of Minnesota.

Why else would some manipulators raise their voices to a fever pitch claiming to save Minnesota from voter fraud, when in 2008 election, 2.9 million votes were cast and the convictions for voter fraud totaled 113. That’s a whopping four-thousands of one-percent of those casting ballots.

Analysis of this minor number concluded not that voter fraud was a threat to our system, but that a very small number of people who did not know they had lost their right to vote attempted to vote.

Now if some of our fellow Minnesotans were genuinely concerned with this very insignificant threat to the integrity of the voting process, a cost effective legislative remedy was already offered by Representative Bobby Champion and passed in 2010 with strong bipartisan support. And was then vetoed by former Governor Pawlenty.

So instead of an economical strategy to notify those ineligible to vote, a cumbersome, very expensive, some estimates up to $23 million, effort is proposed to amend the state constitution and according to analysis by the Secretary of State, suppress voting opportunity for over 700-thousand Minnesotans.

I consider civil rights, the civil rights movement to have been one of the great shapers of my life. I experienced rules that required African-Americans to move to the back of the bus, climb to the balcony of the movie theater, and drive across town to the one hospital in Knoxville, Tennessee that allowed African-Americans treatment. We fought then against the discrimination and we waged war against the poll taxes and the literacy test and any other devices designed to narrow the participation of people, who could shed blood for the country, but who could not participate in the election of office holders.

This attempt to require photo ID in Minnesota is a descendant of other efforts to deny voting rights through the years. Let us agree together that this devilish enterprise will not succeed on our watch.

Richard Chase, Jewish Community Action, Board President:

The state constitution is no place to restrict anyone’s rights or abilities to vote. The constitution is set up to protect rights, not to strip them away. This amendment discriminates against the poor and the elderly who are the most likely to lack picture ID’s with a current address and have difficulties obtaining the documents they would need to overcome that barrier to vote.

At a time when more and more people distrust politicians and government and fewer and fewer people across this country vote, making voting harder makes no sense.

At a time when as a nation we’re promoting democracy around the world, why do we seek to limit democracy in Minnesota?

Hashi Shaafi, Executive Director Somali Action Alliance

The proposed amendment which deals the number of people, the number of poor people who would vote also as well. And also it sends the wrong message to our new citizens and our new voters that we will encourage this for the new privilege and new opportunity for us. And that’s the legacy we’re going to leave for our kids for the future.

Celester Webb, Churches of God in Christ of Minnesota

In thinking of this, and how it would effect those that don’t have the proper ID or those that don’t have the avenue to get the proper ID such as my mother, who is 84 years old elderly woman, who is from the deep south. She does not have a birth certificate. And we call that generation ‘the greatest generation’ America has ever seen. What a tragedy it would be for her to try to go vote and because she does not have ID, as this bill would require, she would be turned away as she was when she lived in Mississippi.

Reverend Paul Erickson, St. Paul Area Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

In order for us to be a great state, we needs everyone’s voice. We need everyone to exercise their voice and use their vote —something that is a right to be protected, not a privilege to be earned. This requirement would not be a burden for me. I’ve got my drivers license. It would not be a burden for me to show it when I showed up to vote. But it would be a burden for hundreds of thousands of Minnesotans and it is wrong for the majority to take away the rights of any minority.

I believe this constitutional amendment is certainly unnecessary. Even after two of the most closely scrutinized elections in this state’s history there have been not a single conviction for voter ID fraud and that’s the only kind of fraud that this would address.

While supporters of this amendment may portray it as preventing possible, hypothetical future fraud, it will have a very real and chilling effect on the people that I have pledged my life to serve.

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. Thank you.

Video of full news conference:

Those participating include:
Pastor Grant Stevensen, St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church, President of ISAIAH;

Elder Alfred Babington-Johnson, CEO Stairstep Foundation, Policy Board Member, His Works United

Bishop Washington, Minnesota Jurisdictional Prelate COGIC Policy Board Member: His WorksUnited

Bishop Howell, Diocesan Bishop Pentecostal Assemblies of the World, Policy Board Member, His Works United

Reverend Paul Erickson, St. Paul Area Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Richard Chase, Jewish Community Action, Board President

Hashi Shaafi, Executive Director Somali Action Alliance

Reverend Dr. Charles Gill, Pilgrim Missionary Baptist, ISAIAH Member

Pastor Laurie Eaton, Our Saviors Lutheran Church, ISAIAH Member


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