Want drama and tension? An opportunity to feel inspired and outraged? And all in 17 minutes?
Bring out the popcorn, because the League of Women Voters Minnesota has just the thing, and it's playing on your laptop.
As part of its noble work to defeat the wholly unnecessary and costly voter ID amendment, the league has produced a video titled: "Democracy for All? The Barriers of Voter ID." (You can find it at www.lwvmn.org)
The best part is that the actors aren't acting. They're as real as you and me. In fact, they are you and me. They're college students proud to have reached voting age. They're our elderly parents who wouldn't dream of missing an election. They're our middle-class neighbors who have fallen on hard times and lost their homes. They're people with disabilities or with jobs that keep them moving around.
They're people like El Ewert, an 86-year-old World War II veteran.
Ewert, of Forest Lake, worked for 30 years in the bar and restaurant business. He lost a daughter to cancer and is a cancer survivor himself. He's sung the national anthem twice at Minnesota Twins games. He has three grown sons, seven grandchildren and a great-grandchild on the way.
And he thinks voter ID is a terrible idea.
"I am very much opposed," said Ewert, who predicts a heavy practical and financial burden will be thrust upon Minnesotans 65 and older if required to show a state-issued photo ID with their current address to be able to exercise their constitutional right to vote. Many elderly people, especially those his age and older, no longer drive or own their own home.
Looking into the camera, he says that he never imagined, when fighting in World War II, that he'd one day be asked to prove "that I am a veteran and a citizen of the United States."
Kenza Hadj-Moussa, 24, thinks the proposed constitutional amendment is a terrible idea, too. Hadj-Moussa, of St. Paul, is also featured in the movie. She recently testified against the amendment at the State Capitol. A graduate student at the University of Minnesota Duluth studying advocacy and political leadership, Hadj-Moussa has moved 12 times since she was 18. But she's hardly slacking.
In 2007, she worked for a nonprofit in Washington, D.C., and took a leave from college to intern with a homeless shelter.
"Voter impersonation? That's not a problem," Hadj-Moussa said. "People losing their jobs and living in their cars in February? That's a problem."
Another problem is convincing, once and for all, worried Minnesotans that we simply do not have even a small problem with voter fraud.
As I've written before, the statewide, nonprofit, nonpartisan Citizens for Election Integrity Minnesota studied results of the 2008 Minnesota general election. CEIMN found that the total percentage of voters investigated for voter impersonation (the only form of voter fraud that photo ID would prevent), was two-ten-thousandths of 1 percent, or 0.0002 percent -- with zero convictions.
"Democracy for All? The Barriers of Voter ID," was funded, in part, by grants from the Joyce Foundation and the LWV United States Public Advocacy for Voter Protection. Producer Sherri Knuth, the league's public policy coordinator, is gearing up for an intense public education campaign should the measure be placed on the November general election ballot. But she believes that "personal stories," such as those told in the film, are her organization's most powerful weapon.
"One of the main messages [of the film]," Knuth said, "is just realizing that this would affect many, many people."
Hadj-Moussa was honored to participate. Voter ID, she said, "is a difficult issue to explain, but it sounds really good as a campaign issue."
She'll spend the next many months talking to "as many people as I know ... one by one," to help defeat voter ID.
"When it's all laid out, voting is something women, especially, have died for. It's so important to me. It's disappointing that we're having to put energy into defending our basic rights."
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