I attended the meeting of the Senate State Government Finance and Policy and Elections Committee on Feb. 18. This meeting was called exclusively for Republican Sen. Mary Kiffmeyer to introduce her bill, SF 3275, which would mandate provisional ballots for those who don’t preregister to vote (“Legislature ready for another fight over election security,” Feb. 18).
This change to our system would take additional staffing and funding to implement, and the bill allocates $4 million toward that endeavor, which counties say is not nearly enough. Plus, this allocation is only for this election year, but the law would mandate this process for every election in the future.
Those who testified could not give any data as to how many fraudulent votes this would prevent. In other words, the supporters had no idea what number of people they foresaw would actually appear at the polls and risk felony prosecutions or deportations in order to cast one vote in Minnesota. But they insisted this was mandatory to protect election security.
Now this is the same Senate committee that, last year, delayed approval of $6.6 million federal dollars that was designated by the Department of Homeland Security as essential to preventing voter fraud in this state. We were the last state in the union to allow these funds to be used. This money was sent to us by President Donald Trump and a Republican Congress to fortify against proven cyberattacks. But no, this was frivolous. In fact, Kiffmeyer was quoted in this paper as saying, “People are being hacked all the time. You’re being hacked all the time, I am. This is no big thing.”
Sharon Tornes, Woodbury
I worry about 2020, not 2016
Every so often there is a letter from a Trump supporter claiming that liberals hate the president and are still upset about the 2016 election. No, it’s President Donald Trump who is still upset about the 2016 election. It is he and his supporters who keep bringing it up. Those of us who want to vote Trump out of office (and we come from all political perspectives) needn’t look so far back to have reason to be outraged by his policies.
Most recently, the front page of the Star Tribune informs us that Trump has pardoned or commuted the sentences of rich and famous individuals (“Trump flexes his pardon power,” Feb. 19), while at the same time proposing to deport Laotian and Hmong refugees (“Hmong fear deportation proposal,” Feb. 19). In case you’re wondering what new wave of Laotian and Hmong refugees have recently arrived, this is not the case. The Trump administration’s proposal is about deporting people based on old criminal convictions. In many cases, the individuals served their prison terms long ago. Some of these individuals were homeless teenagers when they committed their crimes, still traumatized by enduring war in Southeast Asia, then living in Thai refugee camps, before being resettled in the poorest parts of cities in the United States. What sort of government throws people out of the country even after they have paid their debt to society, turned their lives around, have pursued careers and have families?
No, I don’t “hate” Trump or his followers, and I certainly don’t think about the 2016 election. Who has time for that, when we have a president who threatens war with Iran, cozies up with dictators, refuses to address climate change, rolls back environmental protections put in place by Democrats and Republicans, and nurses grudges against people even after they are deceased (i.e., Sen. John McCain)? My sights are set on 2020.
Lisa Wersal, Vadnais Heights
You can’t pull quality out of a hat
Take some front-end clarification from a retired classroom warrior before an education amendment to the state Constitution gets any more traction — “A (different) conservative look at education amendment,” Opinion Exchange, Feb. 19. Mike McFadden’s commentary attempts to “clear up some confusion about the amendment,” but the takeaway is that Mike shares with Alan Page and Neel Kashkari the simple turnkey remedy to education woes: wordplay that “sets the standard.” Presto! Chango! Replace “adequate” with “quality,” and all the scrambled puzzle pieces of public education will be guided into place.
Ask any educator about this. Both “adequate” and “quality” are undefined; they lack standard, agreed-upon features, especially within the complicated and individualized school-by-school, district-by-district, public education puzzle. In a related example, we acknowledge that children should have an adequate breakfast to be ready to learn in school. Replace “adequate” with “quality,” and we will still have great wrangling over what stuff should be in that breakfast. Both terms are innocuous, with no specific value toward education reform within the Minnesota Constitution.
But take one well-known standard for education progress: a teacher with a class of 13 students. We now begin to define quality education because we know the teacher will have greater interaction with each student. The puzzle to be solved at the Capitol is not in words, but in deeds: in actions taken by legislators, taxpayers and school districts to create the optimal, cost-effective environments for at-risk learners.
Steve Watson, Minneapolis
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Instead of the Minneapolis school district spending money to relocate magnet schools and bus students (“South Mpls. parents denounce schools plan,” Feb. 16), why not expand the most popular and effective courses and programs to more schools where the parents want them? Wouldn’t the increased student attendance help pay any extra cost?
Most of the disparity in student educational outcomes is caused by poverty and its related stresses — hunger, homelessness, poor health and family instability. Schools can’t solve poverty on their own, but if schools were funded primarily through income taxes instead of property taxes, school districts would start from a more level playing field, and we would all benefit from a better educated populace.
Timothy Bardell, St. Louis Park
Governance by any other name
With regard to the controversy between Steven Backus and a letter writer about socialism (“Do you vote? Pay taxes? We’re already a socialist country!” Feb. 18 and “Lacking a definition? Let me help,” Feb. 19), sometimes the situation just boils down to semantics. If the government is funding police, fire departments, the Defense Department, roads, bridges, schools, etc., and that is considered a good thing, what difference does it make as to what it is labeled? Of course, there are those who would like to dispute some policies and call them socialism because to many, socialism is akin to a four-letter word. If a policy is deemed a favorable thing to do and has a positive effect on our society, why the need to split hairs over what it might be called?
Jim Waggoner, Bloomington
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