Voting Changes Target Safeguards of Election Integrity

Hilary_Clinton_quote_on_voting_integrity.jpgWith little notice or attention in the media, the Minnesota Secretary of State is in the process of invoking changes in our state election procedures. Such changes are rightly the responsibility of our state legislature where both the intended and the unintended consequences can be fully analyzed and publicly debated. We are therefore concerned that some election law changes are being pursued that completely bypass the state legislature.

A familiar gaggle of non-governmental organizations are taking advantage of some cozy judicial avenues to circumvent Minnesota election laws. Four groups have sued Secretary of State Steve Simon, challenging election laws that they say endanger voters during the COVID-19 pandemic. Rather than represent the Minnesota citizens that elected him, he has chosen to simply consent to the changes that these organizations are seeking. By getting a judge to agree, Steve Simon sidesteps the need to comply with those laws.

What is at stake? It is our laws that provide protections against potential voting fraud such as ineligible voters and “ballot harvesting.” Without legislative approval, Simon is close to:


• Dropping the requirement for witnesses on absentee ballots,
• Allowing mail-in ballots to be accepted two days after Election Day,
• Mailing of unsolicited ballot applications, and
• Eliminating limits on ballot assistance.

What could possibly go wrong? In March 2018, the Office of the Legislative Auditor (OLA) released its review of Minnesota’s election system and revealed that more than 26,000 individuals whose status was marked “challenged” prior to the election in fact voted in November 2016. The Secretary of State has not been diligent in removing those voters from the registration rolls who may be ineligible. Simon wants to send ballot applications to everyone who is on the rolls, regardless if they asked for the applications or not. Ballots that are sent back in will not need to be witnessed.

Political operatives with knowledge of voter registration lists and low propensity voter history could “ballot harvest”; i.e., request ballots for people that are not likely to vote, fill out the ballots, and send them back in. If received after Election Day, there is little likelihood that they will be checked before they are counted. This is particularly true if Simon uses city clerks to open and certify mailed-in ballots rather than election judges nominated by the political parties, as required by law.

If you share our concern that the DFL Secretary of State and friendly plaintiffs are using the Walz administration’s narrative of an extended pandemic emergency to weaken safeguards protecting election integrity, please make those concerns known through letters to the editor.

Image/quote credit: geckoandfly.com Nov 2015

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Steve Elkins' Riot "Analysis" is 55 Years Out of Touch

Steve_Elkins.jpgIn a recent email to constituents, Steve Elkins wrote that “the protests inspired by the murder of George Floyd” in south Minneapolis reminded him of the eruption of violence 55 years ago in California that some now call the 1965 “Watts Rebellion.” The DFL House District 49B representative wrote that the destruction of the Watts business community was to the detriment of the entire community for a generation.

Yet nothing in his email seeks to find out who took advantage of the peaceful protests to go on a rampage of destruction and looting.  The Wikipedia article Elkins referenced points out that in 1965, “Los Angeles’ African American residents were excluded from the high-paying jobs, affordable housing, and politics available to white residents.” If any of that is true today in Minneapolis, why haven’t a long line of DFL Attorney Generals addressed these discriminatory acts?

Rather, Mr. Elkins promises to “address the exclusionary zoning practices of some Twin Cities suburban communities.” He identifies neither the communities nor the zoning practices. Is Mr. Elkins using the recent riots to push for denser development and greater urbanization?

Nowhere in Mr. Elkins’ email is a call for an investigation of the lack of action by city and state officials to swiftly get control of the situation. Less than two days after the initial incident in Watts, Los Angeles had about 2,300 National Guardsmen deployed. We didn’t see the National Guard called out in Minneapolis until a full three days after the rioting began. How effective were our city and state leaders who stated that they didn’t want to arrest anyone; they just wanted everyone to go home! 

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RCV Before Bloomington’s Charter Commission Thursday evening

ballot_box.jpg“Never let a crisis go to waste.” While Obama advisor Rahm Emanuel is quoted as saying this about the 2008 financial crisis, it could as easily be said about Ranked Choice Voting supporters and the COVID-19 pandemic. RCV is a controversial change in the way that we would vote in local elections, and it makes no sense that such a change would be pushed while we are still in an emergency lockdown, unable to debate it face-to-face. Yet the Charter Commission will discuss putting RCV on the November ballot at their Thursday evening, June 11, remote meeting.

We urge Bloomington residents to consider the ramifications and potential consequences of RCV. There is still time to write an email to the Charter Commission members or to plan to speak before the Charter Commission, asking the members NOT to recommend RCV be on the ballot in November. The more residents the better. Some email templates are being prepared, and we can be contacted for ideas if needed. The emails could be as simple as “we have no idea what RCV is and need more time for the city to provide more information before we put this on the ballot” or “I am against changing our voting system in Bloomington to RCV”.

Indicative of the push being made to get this on the ballot, the City Council has had only one face-to-face meeting on the subject last May and listened only to the proponents of RCV.  There was a limited public discussion period during a remote meeting of the City Council on May 18, and only a general page on the city website, with no reference for resident education and information. Unfortunately, the City Management has done very little to illicit any response from the residents like they did for Lyndale Retrofit, Community Center Engagement, Creekside Closing and Diversity Training. Apparently the way in which we are voting is merely a side concern for them.

Emails must be sent by Thursday, June 11 at 2pm. All emails should go to councilsecretary@bloomingtonmn.gov for the meeting record. Resident concerns expressed at the meeting could well make a difference in the decision whether or not the Commission goes forward with this proposed change to the Bloomington City Charter. 

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Sen. Tina Smith's Campaign-Like Memorial Ceremony Remarks

The annual Memorial Day ceremony at the Ft Snelling cemetery went on again this year, albeit virtually because of the coronavirus emergency restrictions. While the production work was admirable, the choice of speakers took a political tilt.

Senator Tina Smith, up for re-election this year, was chosen to lead off the remarks. She spoke of the work her office is willing to do for veterans, rather than stopping after her mention of the lives given for our country. You can view the video by CLICKING HERE

Thank you to US Army Col (Ret.) Don Patton for bringing this to our attention.


Bloomington City Council Pushes RCV as November Ballot Question

By Kathy Kranz, Co-Chair, Senate District 50 Republicans

Vote_ballot_box_cube.jpgVery late in the evening at the Bloomington City Council Meeting on May 18th, the teleconferenced City Council, after minimal discussion among the council members and a phone-only public comment session, voted unanimously to forward the ordinance recommendation for a Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) Amendment on to the Charter Commission. Some council members said by approving this ordinance, they were passing on the responsibility to the voters to decide for themselves.

Per the staff briefing, timing was crucial if the council wanted to get this on the November 2020 ballot: The Charter Commission has 60-90 days to develop ballot wording that must be approved and submitted by mid-August to appear on the ballot. If the Charter Amendment is approved by 51% of the voters, it will be effective for future Mayoral and City Council elections.

The City Charter is Bloomington’s Constitution. Changing the way we vote in our community should not to be taken lightly. In our view, this should NOT be pushed to the November 2020 ballot without further public discussions and debate.

Please consider getting involved in this critical issue now. Send letters, emails and phone calls to all council members prior to June 1st, requesting that they revisit the decision. Contact charter commission members prior to June 11th. Send letters-to-the-editor. Expressing your concern about the rush to change our voting method will let them know now is the time to slow this down and really vet such a crucial process.

The city council and charter commission need to hear from you this week. Some have stated many times they have not heard from the other side of the issue. Whether this is true or not is up for debate.

Our previous Newsletter article included additional information about RCV. You can view the May 18 City Council discussion and public comments CLICK HERE   The RCV discussion is agenda item 8.5 and starts at 3 hours 37 minutes into the meeting (i.e., after 10:30 PM). Public comment ran thru time-mark 4 hours 26 minutes, with Mayor and council comments after.

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Qualls Family Marks 4 Generations of Military Service to America

On May 23, Army veteran and 3rd District Congressional candidate Kendall Qualls reflected on his Facebook page the meaning of Memorial Day for him. It is clear that, when it came to serving his country, he and his family willingly go in harm’s way – they do not send in their proxy.


Kathryn_Jacob_Ashley_Qualls.jpgTo commemorate Memorial Day, this picture gives a snapshot U.S. History by displaying 160-years of bravery, virtue, anguish and the rights given all citizens in the Constitution all in one picture.

My daughter, Kathryn (L) is holding the burial flag of Sheila’s grandfather who fought in WWII. My daughter, Ashley (R) is holding the burial flag of my father who fought in Vietnam. What you might miss is the Civil War print in the background.

Memorial Day started as a result of the informal gatherings to mourn the lives lost to restore our great country. When President Lincoln asked the Union states to send troops to Washington D.C. to protect the capital and defend the country, Minnesota was the first to send troops.

The Minnesota 1st Regiment was a unit pivotal in winning the Battle of Gettysburg. However, it came at cost with 80% of the Regiment killed in action. The highest loss of life in U.S. Army history to this very day.

My family and I are descendants of American Black Slaves. We’re grateful for the sacrifices made and honored to serve in uniform when called. God bless us all and God bless America.

The family tradition is being carried on by Jonathan Qualls, who enlisted this year to make his own mark in the US Army. Youngest son Jacob is pictured with his sisters above. This Memorial Day week, we thank the Qualls family for their tradition of service to our country


Another Edina Developer's Variance?

Initial_Edina_Cleaners_proposal_view_2.jpgOn Tuesday, May 5, the Edina City Council held a meeting that included a proposal to allow expansion of a proposed restaurant from 35 to 100 seats. The expansion would add additional traffic and parking concerns in the neighborhood at Sunnyside and France (former Edina Cleaners).

19 individuals spoke during the hearing—4 in favor of the variance and 15 against. No one successfully explained why the city should change the deal the developer had agreed to.

Because the community input was so good, the city council decided to allow more time for citizen input until noon 5/13. Final decisions will be made at the city council meeting at 7 pm 5/19. Contact the mayor and city council with your thoughts CityCouncil@EdinaMN.gov.

Here’s more background on the issue:

Lorient is a development that has been approved at Sunnyside and France on the site of the former Edina Cleaners. The developer received a variance to exceed the zoning in the area for a building height to create 45 housing units, some retail space and a restaurant. They also received over $2,200,000 from the city in tax increment financing (TIFF). The city received public access to 36 parking spaces. The development included a 35-seat restaurant that would also use those same parking spaces.

Recently, the developer requested a variance to expand the restaurant to 100-seats. The planning commission approved this 5-2. City staff did not support this variance due to traffic and parking concerns

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Bloomington Council to Consider Major Closure Issues May 18

Bloomington_Existing_Community_Center.jpgBloomington residents are being asked to respond before May 18 to a survey CLICK HERE  and contact the city council members (e-mail city-council@bloomingtonmn.gov) to weigh-in on two major building and services closures that have been proposed: Creekside Community Center and Motor Vehicle Services.

Residents who would like to take the survey but don’t have internet access may call 952-563-8877, Monday – Friday, 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

These closures were recommended by city staff at the May 4 city council meeting, however the council tabled the proposals to allow some time for community comment, and also community recommendations for other cost-saving strategies to address the expected budget shortfalls. Without the tax income from hotels and restaurants due to COVID-19 shutdowns, the city expects to need to cut between $7 -$17 million dollars of expenses in 2020, about 18% of the city’s budget.

Details on the city website make it clear that all low-cost congregate meals for Seniors would be cut completely, although some other Senior-services programs now based at Creekside Community Center might be continued in other city-owned buildings. Closing these services in particular seems counter-productive. As explained in this article, "The combination of nutrition, socialization, and connection to other resources and activities may help explain why participating in a congregate meal program leads to better health and a greater likelihood of staying in the community... also, older adults participating in congregate meal programs are less likely to be admitted to a hospital or nursing home."

However, when the city must cut 18% of its budget, we have to stack all of the suggestions against each other to determine which have the least merit (or the least beneficiaries) before we can advocate to take one off the table. The city has not yet listed anywhere close to $7 million worth of proposed cuts and seems to be seeking opinions without providing enough information.

This May 5 article from the Star Tribune provides more information from the May 4 Council meeting. 
The city website includes some added info on the survey page and also in Mayor Busse’s video summary of the May 4 council meeting. 

You may also attend the May 18 Council meeting via telephone and watch on video conference. The process for doing so is detailed on the city’s website city council page


Is Ranked Choice Voting in Bloomington an "Emergency" Action?

Co-Chair, Senate District 50

On March 16th, the Bloomington City Council voted 7-0 to enact our City Emergency Plan, authorizing our City Manager to manage funds and actions on his own. Jamie Verbrugge, Bloomington City Manager, pledged that evening, “if it doesn’t need to be on the agenda, we’re just going to defer until we feel it’s safe to continue to have meetings in a way that meets our community’s expectations and that’s pretty consistent with what other cities are doing too.

Unfortunately, Bloomington’s Manager and City Council are taking up matters that could easily be deferred while the City Emergency is in place. On May 18, the City Council will consider an ordinance that would change the way that we elect our mayor and city council members. Our City Charter requires that we elect these officials in a Primary/General election. The City Council is proposing a November ballot question to change the Charter to “Ranked Choice Voting”, or RCV. This could significantly alter the nature of our elections in Bloomington.

RCV_Ballot.jpg

There are several factions that are pushing Bloomington to institute RCV.  The League of Women Voters, FairVote MN, Dean Phillips, Steve Elkins, MN DFL, the City Manager, the Mayor, and several members of the City Council are just a few.   Ironically, they use arguments that recent studies and actual experiences from other cities have contradicted. The League of Women Voters argues that RCV will encourage more lower income and low information voters to participate. (A claim that a survey of St. Cloud voters disproved).

Other proponents argue that our current Primary Plurality System has flaws that have led to the partisan divide in our legislature at the state and national level. However, they are proposing a fix for a problem that does not exist at our city level and could potentially add unnecessary complexity to our voting process.

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Don't Move the Goal Posts

Political Courage Needed to Lead through the Coronavirus Pandemic

COVID-19.jpgIn our April 13 SD49GOP newsletter and on our website, we noted that an increasing number of Republican legislators were pushing back on Gov. Walz for extending his order requiring most Minnesotans to stay home to May 4th. We went on to urge the governor to tell the state that, assuming current trends continue, restrictions will be lifted by May 4 for those businesses that put in place measures to keep their workers safe.

Two weeks ago, the criteria for re-opening the economy were two-fold:
• We need to “bend the curve”. Rather than an increasing trend in the number of new cases, we need to see the trend level off and start to decrease.
• Our health care system needs to be able to cope without resorting to crisis measures such as emergency hospitals.

Over the past week, our number of new cases has averaged 192, fluctuating between 97 and 261. The percentage of new cases to the number of daily completed tests has trended downward from 11.5% to 9.4%. With respect to the second bullet, the number of virus patients in ICU has fluctuated in the range of 104 to 122, well within the capability of our 844 ICU beds to handle.

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