Clean Elections MN's final Thursday meeting was in January at St. Joan of Arc Church. The first Saturday meeting was February 10 at 3 p.m. at the Penn Lake Library, 8800 Penn Ave S. in Bloomington. The March meeting will be on the first Saturday of the month, 3/3/18, at 1 p.m. in the Hosmer Public Library 347 E. 36th Street, Minneapolis. An agenda is sent before each meeting to everyone on our e-mail list. To get on the list, email a request to email@example.com. Please urge your friends to join our e-mail list and attend a meeting.
You can become a dues paying member by sending a check made out to MnCCE (Minnesota Citizens for Clean Elections) for $25 to our Treasurer:
1780 Lake Street
Lauderdale, MN 55113
Membership includes voting rights.
MnCCE is a new 501 (c) (3) non-partisan non-profit. Your tax deductible contribution will enable us to build our grass roots organization, support relevant speakers and permit us to continue our work to control the influence of money in our elections. A check can be sent to our Treasurer. We do not presently employ staff – we are a grassroots organization and we rely on volunteers.
Legislative Task Force
Clean Elections MN has an active action group that is involved in legislative sessions. This group has been effective and is seeking to expand. The task force attends legislative hearings, presents testimony, calls and e-mails legislators and the Governor, and coordinates with allies such as Common Cause and the Minnesota League of Women Voters.
Attend Town Halls and other Public Meetings
Attending and speaking at town halls and other public meetings such as City Council meetings is a very effective way of advancing our goal of empowering citizens and reducing the power of money. Clean Elections MN can provide talking points for this effort. It is one of the best ways of attracting new members and raising the profile of the need for reform.
Join a Clean Elections MN Committee
We are looking for support for all of our committees: Program, Membership, Planning, Finance, Communications, Development, and Legislation. We are also interested in finding researchers on individual topics, such as election vouchers, ballot initiatives, ranked choice voting, or redistricting. It is not necessary to attend meetings to make a valuable contribution.
Support a Rule to Limit Big Money
The Minnesota Campaign Finance Board is proposing a rule to limit the impact of big money in elections. Sign up to receive rulemaking notices from the Board at Rulemaking Docket on its website and you will receive notice of the rule and have a chance to comment. The rule is explained here - https://cleanelectionsmn.org/why-a-coordination-rule/.
You don’t have to be a member or attend meetings to help us protect our democracy. Clean Elections will occasionally send a request for help to our e-mail list and you can also e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org to let us know you would like to volunteer.
Legislators really do listen to their constituents! Legislative committee chairs should and often do feel obligated to listen to any Minnesota citizen. The best strategy is to make sure that legislators hear frequently and in different ways from constituents about a bill you are interested in. Legislators and the Governor’s office keep track of calls and e-mails from constituents. MnCCE policy positions are available on our website.
Become familiar with the Minnesota Legislature website: www.leg.state.mn.us. Find your legislator including contact information and committee assignments. Find out who is on a committee considering a bill you would like to support or oppose. Find the bill itself and chart its progress through the legislature. Add your bill to “My Bills”. Check committee hearings and the bills to be considered that day. Attend a hearing or conference committee to show support or opposition and consider testifying.
Attend Town Hall Meetings. Legislators announce these events, often by Senate District, through their e-mails lists (that you can join), local newspapers, or Facebook. Or you can call your legislator to see when the next town hall is in your district. These meetings or other legislator events are an outstanding opportunity to speak to them as a “concerned constituent” and they listen with a good crowd in attendance. Prepare a short statement urging your legislator to take action in the next session. Clean Elections prepares samples. Applaud for statements you support. Take a picture or video of a Clean Elections speaker and the response.
Meet with your legislator at the Capitol or in your district. Bring other constituents if possible. Keep it friendly. If the legislator is not available, meet with his or her legislative assistant and leave a written statement. Take a photo to post on our Facebook page or website. It can state what you learned from your visit. Calling or visiting your legislator is very effective.
Clean Elections MN will occasionally ask members to call about a bill that is up for hearing or other action. If several calls are received, it will have an impact. You can also call the committee chair or the Speaker of the House or the Senate Majority Leader.
The Governor has a staff member assigned for election or campaign finance issues. It is crucial to keep in contact with this person as the session progresses and to let the Governor know about your concerns on particular bills that are progressing. The staff member will accept written statements.
It is helpful to have an “elevator speech” ready so you can respond succinctly and persuasively to people who ask you what Clean Elections MN is and what we do—even if you're on an elevator and have only a floor or two of travel to make your case.
The rule of thumb is to keep it close to 30 seconds in length. Here are two examples:
Elevator speech #1
Clean Elections MN is a non-partisan, grass-roots group working to preserve the transparent, inclusive, fair elections Minnesota is known for. In our state and local elections we've always encouraged people to stay informed, vote regularly, and keep the political game fair to all candidates. But as our politics have become more divided, these old values are being challenged by disproportionate amounts of money from the rich, dark money from unknown sources, attempts to eliminate public funding, to Gerrymander legislative districts, to limit voting registration, and restrict voting rights.
Make no mistake. The challenge to these values is real and present. Citizens need to be actively engaged if we are to preserve our voting rights. Democracy is not a freebie. Can I count on your help?
Elevator Speech #2
Clean Elections MN is a small but growing non-partisan group. Our basic goal is to enhance the fairness and transparency of Minnesota elections through education and action. Since the Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United, special interests have been free to spend unlimited, sometimes undisclosed amounts of money to influence elections through news media blitzes and funding of campaigns. We support amending the U.S. Constitution to reverse Citizens United. We also support public financing of elections and an end to gerrymandering of legislative district boundaries.
You can learn more about our mission and activities on Facebook and the web. Email us (here's our card) to find out how you can help us.
If you're on a longer elevator ride, you might have time to add some detail about Clean Elections initiatives. Or, in some cases the initial question could focus on specifics; for instance, “What's the Clean Elections MN position on Citizens United?”
Following are quick answers to some of the issues on the top of our agenda.
Since the U.S. Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling in 2010, large contributions from corporations and super PACs (Political Action Committees) have inundated politics. Enormous amounts of money promoting the special interests of donors make it unlikely that elected officials can afford to listen to the needs and pleas of the middle class whose donations pale by comparison. Clean Elections MN seeks to reduce the undue influence of Big Money by overturning Citizens United.
Since Citizens United, big-money interests have set up super-PACs that collect money from wealthy donors. If the super PAC registers as a “social welfare” charity, it does not have to reveal the identify of contributors. Super PACs can spend without limit to denigrate one candidate or support another, and the voting public doesn't know the source of the money. Clean Elections MN wants legislation that requires donors to be identified.
In 2010 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Citizens United that associations of people, including corporations, have the First Amendment speech rights of individual persons, and that money spent by such groups to promote political ideas or candidates is a form of protected speech. Since that ruling, the amount of money spent on elections has increased from half a billion dollars before 2010 to two and a half billion dollars in the 2016 election. Much of this funding comes from anonymous donors and so is known as “dark money.”
Clean Elections supports the traditional view that the right of unregulated speech protected by the First Amendment belongs to individuals, not to corporations or other special interest groups. Money can fund ads that attack or support candidates and opinions, but money is not in itself “speech.” Therefore, Clean Elections MN works to overturn Citizens United, likely through a Constitutional Amendment.
One way to dilute the impact of “dark money” from unidentified sources and “big money” from corporations, super PACs, and other well funded special interests is to provide public financing of campaigns. Public money can come from several sources such as the following:
- Minnesota's public-subsidy income-tax check-off program.
- Vouchers granted by the government to citizens to donate to political candidates of their choosing (the “Seattle model”).
- Money offered by government directly to candidates who request it.
Elections with low turnout cannot credibly express “the will of the people” To promote turnout, Minnesota has long offers same-day registration with very few instances of fraudulent voting. In our state and around the country, however, efforts are being made to impede voter registration and hinder citizens’ right to vote. Clean Elections MN supports protecting and extending our current registration system. Among other enhancements, we support automatic voter registration; for example, when citizens apply to acquire or renew a driver's license, they could be registered to vote. We also support early voting; not everyone can get to the polls on Tuesdays. We oppose “provisional ballots,” because we believe they needlessly make voting more difficult. In general, we think citizens should find it easy to vote but hard to cheat. In general, we believe it should be easy to vote but hard to cheat.
RCV allows voters to select several candidates in a race instead of one. The chosen candidates are ranked in order of preference. In Minneapolis municipal elections in 2009 and 2013, for example, voters were allowed to designate first, second, and third choices. If no candidate achieves a majority of first-choice votes, the candidate with the least votes is dropped from consideration and a second count ensues. In this second count, the ballots for the eliminated candidate are reviewed and their second-choice votes are added to the designated candidates' first-choice votes. Successive rounds of counting eliminate the lowest polling candidate and distribute the second-choice votes. If the second-ranked candidate on one of those ballots is no longer in the race, the third- choice candidate receives a vote. The counting continues until a candidate either achieves a majority or the remaining candidates concede defeat.
RCV promises the following benefits:
- The winning candidate receives a majority of the total votes.
- Voters can cast first-choice votes for non-major party candidates without fear their vote will be “wasted” or that their candidate is merely a “spoiler.” The second-ranked vote can go to the major party candidate the voter prefers.
- Negative campaigning is discouraged. A candidate will be reluctant to alienate voters by maligning their first choice candidate, thereby reducing the chance of earning a second-rank vote from these voters.
After every 10-year census, legislative district boundaries are redrawn to reflect changes in population. In Minnesota and many other states, this task is carried out by the legislature. Because legislators have an inherent conflict of interest in setting boundaries, Clean Elections MN supports establishing a citizen redistricting commission. Manipulation of legislative districts for political purposes dilutes the impact of some voters and increases the impact of others in contradiction to the principle of “one person, one vote.” Legislators should not be able to pick their voters.
In Minnesota convicted felons who live in the community on parole or probation are forbidden to vote until they are released from supervision.This is true even for those who have never served time. In recent decades felony convictions in Minnesota courts have mushroomed, especially for drug offenses. Moreover, Minnesota courts favor long probation periods, as much as two decades, with no voting rights. As a result, the number of non-voting convicted felons in our state has increased by 400 percent since 1974. This group includes a disproportionate number of African-Americans and American Indians. Clean Elections MN wants state legislation to restore the vote to felons who have served their time and are living in their community. Thirteen other states have such a law.
After exiting public service, a former legislator who returns as a lobbyist may exercise undue influence because of knowledge gained and relationships formed while in government. A former legislator will benefit as a lobbyist by knowing, without ascending a learning curve, how the legislature functions, who the major players are, and how to exert maximum influence. At the very least, the existence of the revolving door reinforces the perception that government caters to wealthy special interests at the expense of the general public. The prospect of future employment may affect how a legislator votes. Clean Elections MN seeks to eliminate the “revolving door” practice.