One of my favorite children's books is Maurice Sendak's Chicken Soup with Rice. I am sure Mr Sendak would approve of my paraphrase
In November to vote we'll go
On the amendments lets vote NO
Vote NO once, vote NO twice
Let's keep Minnesota nice!
Anyone with a TV, a mailbox, or time to see bumper stickers in traffic know that we will be voting on two constitutional amendments this November.
The first one reads Shall the Minnesota Constitution be amended to provide that only a union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Minnesota? If the amendment were to pass the underlined words would be added to our constitution.
The second one reads Shall the Minnesota Constitution be amended to require all voters to present valid photo identification to vote and to require the state to provide free identification to eligible voters, effective July 1, 2013? If this amendment were to pass the following language would be added to Minnesota's constitution
All voters voting in person must present valid government-issued photographic
identification before receiving a ballot. The state must issue photographic identification
at no charge to an eligible voter who does not have a form of identification meeting the
requirements of this section. A voter unable to present government-issued photographic
identification must be permitted to submit a provisional ballot. A provisional ballot must
only be counted if the voter certifies the provisional ballot in the manner provided by law.
(c) All voters, including those not voting in person, must be subject to substantially
equivalent identity and eligibility verification prior to a ballot being cast or counted.
Since Minnesota has been a state there have been multiple amendments proposed to our constitution. Most of them have been rejected because they did not receive the support of the majority of those voting. On the whole the amendments are boring changes to the mechanisms of government, basic changes that move the people's business along.
None of the amendments or the constitution itself deal with marriage.
Reading the amendments chronologically you can see the gradual expansion of voting rights. The amendment granting voting rights to "Negroes" was defeated several times before it was finally passed. Women received their voting rights piecemeal; first being given the chance to vote on library boards and other small matters before full suffrage was granted.
There aren't amendments at every election. It is important to remember how we came to find these particular amendments on our ballot this year. After the last election there were Republican majorities in the House and Senate for the first time in ages. Long in the minority they had a social agenda that they were eager to pass. However, with a Democratic governor these social measures were vetoed. Since they weren't able to turn restrictions on same sex marriage and voter participation into law, the Republicans crafted constitutional amendments which could go to the voters in spite of the governor's veto.
Even if I agreed with the amendments (along with Mr Sendak I strongly disagree), I would object to the tactic. It is not good governance to turn every disagreement into a ballot measure. It is even worse to enshrine issues that could be handled with laws into the constitution where they can't be changed without significant effort. Suppose the photo ID amendment passes and after a few decades we have electronic IDs that don't use traditional photos-Will we be ineligible to vote? Will we have to pass another constitutional amendment? Would we be better off if the legislature makes administrative changes by passing laws that can be changed with technology?
Say it once
Say it Twice
Let's keep our Constitution nice!