MN's electoral process gives all citizens a chance to participate in choosing a party's
candidates and public policies. Above: Writing, discussing, and voting on a public policy.
Forum Attendee Joy Marsh Stephens posted in MN's Electoral Process: Minority Influence in 2014
9:20pm Jan 16
"If you missed it then you REALLY missed something special. Hats off to all the organizations who sponsored this really valuable educational opportunity. Thanks as well to the many speakers who took time to share their knowledge and empower a whole new base of constituents. I'm glad I was there along with so many of my neighbors."
Points Shared by the Speakers
Benjamin Kruse opened the forum with an explanation of caucuses as the starting place for MN's Electoral Process. At the caucuses, precinct chairs and vice chairs are elected, delegates to the Senate District Convention selected, and Resolutions proposed for the Party Platforms. At the Senate District Convention, candidates for state legislative offices, this year MN Representatives, are endorsed and delegates and alternates elected for the Congressional District and State Conventions. If you don't want to run to be delegate yourself, you can cast your vote for someone who plans to vote for the same candidates you prefer.
Senator Patricia Torres Ray told the diverse audience that a Caucus was an easy way to become involved in a political party. It is a way for people to have a big influence because the number of participants tends to be small. The people who participate become like an extended family. Senator Torres Ray noted that most of the legislation she proposes has been suggested by her constituents, adding that it is the public that leads on legislation. Legislators usually support legislation when the public rallies behind it.
Sarah Walker, President of the Coalition for Impartial Justice, spoke on the large number of black men, one in five, who are disenfranchised in Minnesota. Due to laws promoted by the American Legislative Exchange Council, many more people were convicted of felonies in states throughout the nation in the last 30 years. Most of these convictions are for drug use and do not involve violence. While drug use is similar in black and white communities, stop and search policies in black neighborhoods have resulted in a far higher rate of arrest for black men. Drug arrest policies carried out since the 1980's have resulted in the U.S. having the highest rate of incarceration of any nation in the world.
MN is one of the states lowest in incarceration, but one of the highest in probation and parole. Currently people on probation and parole are not allowed to vote. Ms. Walker stated that the Second Chance Coalition is advocating restoring the right to vote to people convicted of a felony once they complete their prison sentence. Restoring the right to vote encourages people to take on the responsibilities of citizenship and helps them to become reintegrated into the community.
Devin Montero, Brooklyn Park City Clerk, spoke on the important role of election judges, and the extra help that bilingual judges contribute to elections. He also brought one of the new voting machines and showed how the machine works.