To My Neighbors-
For the first time in nearly 10-years, I come before you, now politically active, to expose another important issue: our electorate system in Minnesota is broken. To understand why, a discussion of how a person comes to hold office should first be had. We Minnesotans collectively choose who will govern us at our general election. But in order to gain access to the general election ballot, each person seeking to govern must first be nominated by a group of Minnesotans. Formally, these groups of Minnesotans are called a “political party” and the people seeking that group’s nomination are called “candidates.”
The nomination process in Minnesota generally starts when a candidate makes a filing with our Secretary Of State identifying the political party whose nomination is sought. Containing only the names of the candidates seeking its nomination, the Secretary Of State prints “primary” ballots for each political party. We Minnesotans then go to our polling place, obtain the primary ballot for the political party of our choosing, and cast a vote in this primary election for the candidate whose nomination we desire to advance. Each candidate receiving the most votes from their political party receives the nomination: that candidate is said to be the nominee of the political party. Sometimes, the nominee is chosen by “caucus.” Caucus is where votes of Minnesotans are vocalized or taken by straw poll instead of by way of a state printed ballot accessed at the polls. The primary ballot and caucus procedure is usually limited in its use by large (or “major”) political parties, like the GOP and DFL. A candidate may also be nominated without participating in a primary by submitting a petition to the Secretary Of State signed by hundreds, or even thousands, of Minnesotans; this nomination petition process is generally completed by smaller (or “minor”) political parties. But in each case, the underlying concept is the same: candidates put their name forward to us Minnesotans seeking our support, and we are the ones who get to decide who is worthy of our nomination.
The only candidates that do not directly receive the nomination of a political party are those for United States President. Instead, that candidate is sent to a “national convention” where it competes with others sent to the national convention by political parties of other states. Which ever one of these candidates is chosen at the national convention receives the nomination of the related political party and placed on the general election ballot in each state. But, the process of how Minnesotans send candidates to the national convention is still the same: candidates put their name forward to us Minnesotans seeking our support, and we are the ones who get to decide who is worthy of being sent to the national convention.
There is just one more (important) piece to this puzzle. Small and well-organized corporations, called “central committees,” exist whose primary purpose is to influence the political parties of Minnesota. They do so by advertising their ideology to the political party of their choosing, and soliciting those Minnesotans to participate in their activities. In the case of nomination, they (more times than not), successfully influence their related political party to nominate the candidate of their choosing. Additionally, related central committees in all the states combine to operate the national convention. Because of the close contact a central committee has with its political party in exerting its influence, the two are often confused with each other; but keep in mind the central committee and the political party are two separate and very distinct groups.
In 2016, a law was passed to help the presidential nomination process in Minnesota run more smoothly. Our Legislature noted the central committees have first hand knowledge of who is seeking the nomination at their respective national conventions. Because they are so uniquely situated, the central committee was burdened with the responsibility of informing our Secretary Of State of all the candidates seeking the nomination of their respective political party so those names could be printed on the ballots. In the event a candidate came forward after the ballots were printed, the central committee was further burdened with the task of informing our Secretary Of State of that name. The reason for this was so the candidate could be properly canvassed when written-in by those Minnesotans seeking to advance the nomination of that candidate. At the time the law was debated and passed by our Legislature, it was understood that our long-standing tradition of Minnesotans choosing the nominees from the pool of all candidates seeking the Presidency would be practiced.
But in 2019, one central committee did not act as the Legislature, or even its own national convention, intended. Instead, it interpreted the new law to mean that it has the power to choose which name will be printed on its political party’s ballot, and (more importantly) whose will not despite the desire of other candidates to politically associate with its related political party. For the first time since we obtained statehood in 1858, we Minnesotans are unable to politically associate with the candidates who are seeking our support. In other words, you and I must first obtain the express permission of the central committees in order to advance the nomination of a candidate seeking to be elected!
But, it gets worse. As an absentee voter, I will receive and turn in my ballot early. As the candidate I desire to advance might not be printed on the primary ballot I receive, I will have to write-in that candidate’s name. However, the central committee is not required to inform anyone what names will be canvassed until about a month after I submit my ballot. In other words, I don’t have any way of knowing if my vote will be counted at the time I cast it!
Our longstanding history of a healthy and honest republic is damaged; our democracy is breaking down; the walkway has been paved for an egregious Soviet-style election process; and, as I demonstrated earlier, the corrupt election practices allowed by this law is openly taking place. Under this system, we Minnesotans are ultimately forced to choose our officials from the pool of good-old-boys who rub elbows with the central committees. By stripping us of our ability to govern ourselves and equipping the central committees with the power to decide who can and (more importantly) who cannot govern, we Minnesotans are driven downwards into the disparaging pits of authoritarianism. I find this to be shocking to my conscious, and I hope you see this as being completely unacceptable as well.
But there is hope! After aiding one candidate in his filing a federal suit to gain access to our ballots, I will be petitioning the Minnesota Supreme Court with him (and hopefully the others who are being excluded). My joint petition with the De La Fuente campaign was delivered to the Weld and Walsh campaigns on the day of filing to correct the ballots of our upcoming primary election. Furthermore, I have delivered a bill to select lawmakers that, if passed, will correct these flagrant offenses. Just as we moved to strip the Legislature of its ability to set its own pay, advocated for changing the Metropolitan Council’s unrepresented transportation taxation authority, and demanded our elected officials tax us without being coerced into doing so, so too can we wrestle the power to nominate away from of the central committees and place it squarely back where it belongs: into our hands.
It is my sincerest hope that our democracy will be restored so that our primary votes not only may be cast for the candidates of our choosing, but that they will be effectively canvassed as well. Everything we Minnesotans do is governed by our laws, which are created validly only when we can freely advance the nomination of those whom we each desire to govern. The ultimate price has already been paid by women and men who purchased this fragile republic with their lives; they have gifted it to us without any condition or reservation. Let us honor these patriots by protecting their fight for our right to govern ourselves. Contact your state legislators, and urge them to change our law so that we may freely choose to associate with those who are trying to associate with us.
7 December 2019
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