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Readers Write (Jan. 25): Voter ID, synthetic drugs, health care reform

  • January 24, 2012 - 8:19 PM


Not racist -- but certainly selective


The Jan. 24 letter writer who said she would scream if she read one more letter on voter ID will have to clutch her pearls and look for the fainting couch. She takes objection to the suggestion that supporters of voter ID laws are racist; no, I do not think they are racist.

They are, however, trying to institute a policy, supported almost exclusively by Republicans, that would selectively and disproportionately disenfranchise the poor, people of color, students and the elderly -- people who tend to vote for Democrats.

Because these laws would disenfranchise targeted groups, they are, indeed, comparable to Jim Crow laws.

Moreover, such laws are unnecessary. There is no evidence of voter impersonation in Minnesota or, indeed, in any state. The main type of "fraud" involves felons mistakenly voting, a problem not addressed by voter ID laws.

As for the comparison of needing an ID for other activities, those activities are not guaranteed by the Constitution. Voting is a constitutional right.


• • •

According to AARP, citing a study by the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law, "about 11 percent of adult citizens -- more than 21 million people -- lack a valid, government-issued photo ID."

Many are poor, and many are elderly: "Nearly one in five citizens over 65 -- about 8 million -- lacks a current, government-issued photo ID, a 2006 Brennan Center study found."

While supporters of voter ID law cite concerns about fraud, "there have been a handful of substantiated cases of individual ineligible voters attempting to defraud the election system. But by any measure, voter fraud is extraordinarily rare."

The center looked at cases in three states -- Missouri, New Jersey and Wisconsin -- and found that, on average, voter fraud amounted to a rate of less than 0.01 percent and that voter ID laws would not have helped.

Are we willing to allow 11 percent to be turned away? Any roadblock to voting is a roadblock to democracy.


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Star Tribune shines a light on danger


As chairman of the Public Safety and Crime Prevention Policy Committee in the Minnesota House of Representatives, I read with great interest Star Tribune editor Nancy Barnes' column in the Jan. 15 paper ("Synthetic drug dangers are under our spotlight.")

The synthetic-drug issue came to the attention of the Legislature at the same time it made its way onto the Star Tribune's radar screen -- as a result of the tragic loss of a young man's life at a party where teens took synthetic drugs.

Although we enacted legislation last year to partially address this issue (making the sale and/or possession of so-called "bath salts" and synthetic cannabinoids -- sometimes referred to as synthetic marijuana -- illegal), we recognize that it was a first step and that there is more to be done.

As Barnes pointed out, neither the enactment of laws criminalizing these drugs, nor their enforcement, will solve this problem alone. Education about the dangers of synthetic drugs is a critical component of stopping use -- especially by young people who are attracted to them and find them readily available on the Internet.

I applaud the Star Tribune's efforts to shine a light on this dark and dangerous industry, as well as its funding and distribution of educational videos to our state's high schools.

The Legislature will continue to work on solutions to the synthetic drug issue in this upcoming legislative session, and we welcome participation by the public in our discussions as we move forward with legislation this year.

We hope that between tougher laws and a greater awareness of the dangers of synthetic drugs by parents, schools and youths, we can bring an end to their use and not suffer any more loss of life as a result of them.


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Star Tribune should stop being a shill


The Star Tribune should be required to report as a lobbying group.

Three articles in four days, including two editorials, pushed the public to accept President Obama's government health "exchange" and pushed Republican legislators to join Gov. Mark Dayton to implement it in Minnesota.

The third article, on the front page, asked, "Will state remain gridlocked?" on the health exchange (Jan. 23). I hope so. The exchange is considered the "heart" of federal health care reform, according to a Star Tribune interview with an HMO executive in October. Republicans should absolutely say no to Obama's takeover of health care.

The so-called "exchange" is a federally controlled bureaucracy under federal law and federal rules. The first set of proposed federal rules included the word "require" 811 times. The exchange will empower health plans.

Employers will use it to drop their employees from coverage. The exchange will collect and share private medical and financial data. It will expand taxpayer-funded subsidies and dependency. It will limit insurance choices and increase premiums.

A government exchange is not a "marketplace." It's not a simple "online tool." It's a government command-and-control center meant to implement the federal takeover of health care in Minnesota.

Too bad there's so little objective truth-telling by the lobbyists at the Star Tribune.


The writer is president of the Citizens' Council for Health Freedom.

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