Duluth News: Candidate’s View – Common sense can ensure elections are fair

Duluth News Tribune 
Opinion by Kim Crockett

August 03, 2022 11:52 AM 

Candidate’s View: Common sense can ensure Minnesota elections are fair

From the column: “It is not enough to say, as we do year after year, that Minnesota has high voter turnout, as if that proves our elections cannot be improved upon.”

Americans are a self-governing people who choose their elected representatives through voting. Citizens ideally spend time well before an election familiarizing themselves with the issues, current officeholders, and the candidates who want to replace the incumbents.

Being a well-informed voter is a big responsibility. Given the level of engagement I hear as I crisscross the state, I am confident that many Minnesota voters are taking that task seriously.

But that civic task has been made much more difficult because a good debate on merits is getting harder and harder to find; so many of us, now more than ever, tune out “politics” as an angry, divisive place. And few things are more divisive than the topic of elections.

Voting is, in part, how we consent to be governed by the people who are elected, even when the people we vote for do not win. It is easier to accept election outcomes when we feel certain the process was fair.

In fact, I would say that the level of confidence people express about their elections tells you a lot about the quality of both election laws and their administration. There has been a lot of dissatisfaction in that arena in recent years.

That is why I am running for Minnesota secretary of state. The secretary of state oversees federal, state, and local elections. The right to vote in fair and secure elections and to have that vote properly counted is our most precious right as American citizens.

I want all Minnesotans, no matter their political affiliation, to feel confident about our elections. But the bitter political divide in the Minnesota Legislature is making it hard to come to reasonable compromises; the bickering is turning off younger generations before they are even old enough to vote. That is not good for our civic health

In recent years, both sides of the aisle have expressed sincere concerns about everything from ballot security to the reliability of voting equipment. This is a sign that it is high time to take a hard look at how we vote and how we count votes.

Can we have a civil conversation about requiring photo ID at polling places without accusing supporters of wanting to suppress votes? Or whether we have become too dependent on technology that we do not understand or trust (even when it works as intended)? Are ballot drop boxes and other measures that emphasize convenience over ballot security good ideas? Why do we have 46 days of “early voting” before campaigns end on Election Day? Should we allow private foundations to spend millions of dollars on government election operations, as Mark Zuckerberg’s Center for Tech and Civic Life did in 2020?

Elections are designed to be final as soon as possible after we vote. Otherwise, we invite chaos and uncertainty and leave the people without representation. It is much better for an election to be decided at the ballot box than in a court of law. But what if an election is so close that a recount is necessary? Minnesota, a politically divided state, has plenty of experience with close elections and even delays in certifying elections. The infamous eight-month 2008 Norm Coleman-Al Franken recount for U.S. Senate comes to mind.

Given our divided nature and close elections, it is critical that we ask our Legislature to adopt common-sense measures that will raise our level of confidence in elections — and that we do so soon. It is not enough to say, as we do year after year, that Minnesota has high voter turnout, as if that proves our elections cannot be improved upon, ending the conversation.

If you are like me, your family is politically divided, making Thanksgiving a challenge, especially when you are the host in charge of the delicate task of who sits near whom. Wouldn’t it be good for our family and civic life if we lowered the political temperature by adopting a few common-sense changes?

Kim Crockett of Excelsior, Minnesota, is the Republican-endorsed candidate for Minnesota Secretary of State, in a primary Aug. 9 against Erik van Mechelen of Minneapolis. There’s also a DFL primary, pitting Steve Carlson against incumbent Steve Simon. The GOP and DFL primary winners will face off on Election Day on Nov. 8.

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