Opinion editor's note: Star Tribune Opinion publishes letters from readers online and in print each day. To contribute, click here.
I accept the fact that too many political parties on the ballot can lead to electoral spoilage within a two-party system. However, making it harder for new or alternative groups to gain ballot access seems like an outdated solution ("Too many 'third parties' make democracy safe for spoilers," Opinion Exchange, March 17).
In the 21st century, we know that ranked-choice voting can combat the problem of spoilage and, unlike proportional representation, we would not have to abandon our two-party system. A bill that would adopt this voting method statewide has been introduced ("DFL lawmakers advocate for statewide ranked-choice voting," front page, March 16).
We also know that allowing alternative-major parties to nominate candidates by convention, if they so choose, would combat the problem of fake candidates who seek the major party's ballot access status not to expand public debate but simply to hurt the Democratic or Republican candidates.
We know this, yet the state chairmen of the two traditional parties came out in favor of increasing the major party threshold citing these very reasons.
The rights of qualified citizens to elect representatives and to be elected are interconnected rights necessary for free and fair elections.
No doubt these rights are not absolute, but when the least intrusive methods exist to deal with spoilage and fake candidates, and members of the two traditional parties are still backing an outdated and intrusive bill, I have to wonder whether or not this bill is really about something a bit shady, like incumbency protection.
Edward T.J. Brown, Parkers Prairie, Minn.
I'm a little insulted by politicians who claim that I would be confused by ranked-choice voting. And if there is a position for which I think only one candidate deserves my vote, I'm no worse off if other voters make multiple choices. I have a little more sympathy for local election officials who will have to prepare for RCV. The legislation should provide adequate funding to develop and implement a standard procedure, training and educational materials for voters.
Timothy Bardell, St. Louis Park
Legalization is coming, unfortunately
While I appreciate that marijuana helps many people with medical issues who need symptom relief, I fully am aligned with the family of Catherine Mayberry and am saddened to read what happened to her and how little time her parents were given to present their concerns to legislators ("A promising life derailed by cannabis," editorial, March 16). I was a pot user in high school in the mid 1970s and smoked just about every day for over a year. I eventually started feeling paranoid whenever I smoked enough to get high, which no longer felt good. I was fortunate in that I had a higher-power intervention, which helped me when I needed it most, and was able to quit with much support. Even though I don't support any laws legalizing nonmedicinal use of marijuana, I believe it's inevitable a law will be passed. However, according to neuroscientists, the brain isn't fully done developing until age 25. Why do we listen to science with the COVID-19 restrictions we've had, but not when it comes to legalizing pot?
Karen Cox, Circle Pines
The tragic story of Catherine Mayberry's death and her family's agony of getting her help is one heard too often. We as a society struggle with how to prevent this from happening. For over 50 years the Drug Enforcement Administration has been the government arm to fight drug use in America. Sadly, it is a battle we aren't just losing but have lost. Overdose deaths are at an all-time high, and illegal or not, those who wish to use drugs have little trouble obtaining them. What ultimately killed Catherine was not marijuana but the use of meth laced with fentanyl. The hard question we must ask ourselves is not the risks of legalizing marijuana but rather if fighting any drug use by legal eradication does more harm than good. Legality does not endorse use.
As radical as the idea might be, how many overdose deaths would occur if legal drugs were for sale, the user knowing what they were consuming and in what quantity?
Jeffrey Beattie, West St. Paul
Appoint members, and here's why
Regarding "Make it an elected body" (Readers Write, March 11): In January 2018, our organization undertook a systematic study of the pros and cons of various methods for choosing members of the Metropolitan Council: (1) appointment of people currently holding local elected office; (2) appointment of nonelected people living in the Metropolitan Council district; (3) direct election by voters in each Metropolitan Council district.
In 2019, our membership (from across the seven-county metro area) overwhelmingly voted to support the appointment by the governor of citizens residing in the Met Council district who are not current elected officeholders. We also recommend a return to the practice of staggered terms for appointed Met Council members. We do not support the appointment of local elected officials to or direct election of members of the Met Council.
With respect to direct election, with the metro area population estimated at more than 3.16 million in July 2022, this would mean candidates in the 16 Metropolitan Council districts would represent (and campaign for votes among) more than 197,500 people. These would be very large election districts, larger than state Senate districts.
Karen Schaffer, Roseville
The writer is chair, Council of Metropolitan Area Leagues of Women Voters.
It's been said before, and let's say it again: Dump the Southwest light-rail project and send the unelected, unaccountable, irresponsible Met Council packing. The latest auditor's report details deception, incompetence and clear evidence of hiding the truth about the project from the public and the Legislature ("SWLRT overruns hidden, audit finds," March 16). Tear up the tracks and sell all the sellable parts, supplies, construction materials and even the copper wire. Take the resulting money and pave over the rail line, turning it into the world's most expensive hiking and biking trail. If Washington wants the money back, tell them to come and repossess it or Gov. Tim Walz can write a billion-dollar check from the surplus as penance for the recklessness of his political pals. Not a penny more for building this fiasco, and throw the rascals out.
Jack Sheehan, Eden Prairie
Let's live up to our own standards
The Pentagon's resistance to sharing evidence about Russian war crimes with the International Criminal Court is shameful for two reasons ("Pentagon: No sharing Russian war crimes evidence with Hague," March 9). For one, it hampers the prosecution of a tyrant who has pursued a course of mass death and destruction to violate another nation's sovereignty. But just as disgraceful is the logic behind the resistance: Military leaders fear their cooperation with the court could lead to the prosecution of Americans.
The ICC's definition of war crimes includes intentional attacks against civilians, extensive destruction beyond military necessity and inhumane treatment such as torture. If any Americans were involved in this kind of behavior, shouldn't they be prosecuted to the fullest extent? Or are we somehow exempt from this moral obligation? If so, are we any better than those we condemn?
That the U.S. is not party to the international court is no excuse. In fact, it is another shameful blot. Russia renounced the Rome Statute of the ICC in 2016 after criticism of its invasion of Crimea. The U.S. withdrew its own signature in 2002, even before the agreement was enforced. If we expect any credibility in our denunciation of Russian atrocities, we must immediately rejoin and ratify the ICC agreement. We must proclaim to the world that all its citizens, Americans included, should be held to fundamental standards of fair treatment.
Jeff Naylor, Minneapolis