G Beck testimony on HF 9

Testimony – House State Government committee – 1/28/21 – HF9

Chair Nelson, members, my name is George Beck. I am a retired administrative law judge, former Chair of the Minnesota Campaign Finance Board, and presently Chair of Clean Elections Minnesota, a non-partisan, non-profit working on election and campaign finance reform.

Clean Elections Minnesota strongly supports House File 9. It is a comprehensive bill that will make Minnesota a leader in the nation in democracy reform.

Very importantly, it finally takes steps to lessen dark money in elections in our state by expanding the definition of “expressly advocating” so that contributors cannot hide their identity when supporting independent expenditures for electioneering communications such as mailings, billboards, and TV and radio ads. This change has been supported by the Minnesota Campaign Finance Board and has been adopted in 19 other states. This reform does not deny free speech, but merely asks, “Who is speaking?” Who supports a candidate financially is important information for a voter.

HF 9 adopts an innovative approach to campaign financing by proposing a “Democracy Dollar” small donor match program. Registered voters would receive a $50 coupon from the state that they could provide to any candidate of their choosing. It replaces the public subsidy and the political contribution refund program.

This bill establishes important principles to guide the Legislature drawing electoral maps for redistricting. Principles are not presently in statute but have been adopted ad hoc every ten years. Clean Elections also supports a separate reform bill that would create a citizen’s commission to assist the Legislature in adopting new district maps given its conflict of interest in that regard.

There has been an unfortunate effort nationally and in Minnesota to depress votes and narrow the electorate. HF 9 creates automatic voter registration, early voting before an election, the mailing of absentee ballots to registered voters 46 days before an election, restoration of the right to vote for the previously incarcerated, and discourages intimidation of voters. These changes will combat voter suppression and ensures a robust vote in Minnesota.

This bill is in fact impartial and is supported by most Minnesotans. We sponsored a recent poll of Minnesotans that showed that 82% of our people support full disclosure of political contributions. Please vote with your constituents and approve this bill.

Thank you.

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