How Some Rural County Clerks And The Blogger Who Heard Their Cries Stopped Minnesota Republicans From Putting Voter Suppression In The State Constitution
Posted by Phoenix Woman on September 25, 2013
Remember how I spent much of last year talking up Sally Jo Sorensen’s efforts to fight the Voter ID amendment proposal that our (soon-to-be-voted-out) GOP-controlled state legislature was pushing?
While all the Twin-Cities-based bloggers and institutional groups took one look at the polling (which in May 2011 was at 80% in favor of Voter ID) and ceded the battle to the far-better-funded voter suppression groups, Greater-Minnesota-based blogger Sally Jo Sorensen of Bluestem Prairie was reading local news stories and talking to county and city clerks and elections officials in outstate Minnesota, who were all aghast at how much it was going to cost their local governments to implement this Voter ID plan. (Kittson County alone would have had to shell out $160 for every man, woman and child to meet the requirements of the proposed amendment. That’s money that won’t go towards plowing your roads, or hiring new cops, or fixing your schools.)
Sally Jo realized that all anyone needed to do to get started on sinking the voter suppression amendment was to get the rural county clerks talking to each other, to their local newspapers, and to their counterparts in the bigger cities. And that’s what she did, with a little help from me (with posts both here and at Firedoglake) in the later stages of the story.
Between the two of us, we forced the Twin Cities blogs, and then the Twin Cities establishment media, to cover it, just so they wouldn’t be repeatedly scooped by FDL, a blog with a national readership, on a big story in their own backyard. Then at the end of September 2012, new poll numbers came in, and the 80% approval of barely a year earlier was suddenly down to 52% for an amendment that needed 50% support to pass. And all without a single radio or TV ad up to that point.
That’s when the unions and other institutional groups started to put serious money and effort into the anti-Voter-ID fight. It was now an easily winnable fight, in large part because of Sally Jo and her hard work. Radio and TV ads were rushed into production.
The Republicans were furious. And I mean furious. They’d been counting on the Twin Cities prog-bloggers and institutional prog forces like the unions to stick to pointing out that the Voter ID plan was meant to keep nonwhites and poor people from voting. This is absolutely true, but unfortunately a lot of people don’t really see anything wrong with that; most of them won’t say so, but the Bradley Effect applies here. But when we hammered away on the cost issue — and when Gustavus professor and elections expert Max Hailperin came in and crunched the numbers — that freaked out the GOP so much they had the Center of the American Experiment cook up some numbers that allegedly showed that the Voter ID amendment wouldn’t be very costly after all; needless to say, Prof. Hailperin debunked their numbers without even breathing hard.
In the end, the Voter ID amendment went down in defeat, in large part because Sally Jo found a way when her “betters” in the Twin Cities media and political scenes had given up.
09/26/13 Update: Sally Jo has this to say about the fight to stop the Voter ID amendment:
Well, I do think that the clerks, the League of Women Voters, the League of Rural Voters and others deserve credit–and Luchelle Stevens’ strategy once she was hired. But yes, PW is right about the urban bloggers writing off rural areas based on early polling.
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