The Free Press, Mankato, MN

November 14, 2012

Our View: Amendments were a divisive overreach

The Free Press

— The essential lesson to take away from Minnesota's two failed constitutional amendments on Nov. 6 is that they failed, at least in part, because they were divisive.

They were cobbled together by one party, opposed by virtually everyone from the other side, and while going down in defeat they left voters with the impression that Minnesota Republicans are more interested in dividing the electorate than in dealing with other more pressing issues of the day.

No doubt, Republicans who placed the voter ID amendment and the same-sex marriage amendment on the ballot inspired more like-minded voters to head to the polls. But they inspired more Democratic voters to oppose the measures. So Minnesotans voted in large numbers -- which is a good thing -- but a newly-chastised GOP clearly isn't celebrating.

When constitutional amendments are considered in the future, we suggest that there be a genuine bipartisanship from the start -- not a runaround of the legislative process that these two amendments signified. Minnesota makes it too easy to put constitutional amendments on the ballot in the first place, so let us hope that our legislators think long and hard before resorting to them when bipartisanship is in short supply.

These last two amendments, approved by Republicans as a gift to their core constituency, were opposed not only by most Democratic legislators but also by the Democratic governor. We surmise that they were defeated in part because Minnesota voters do not easily embrace any constitutional change put before them.

Voters certainly should be more reluctant to change the constitution when changes appear on the ballot so easily -- simply due to the wishes of one party in control of just one part of government. Minnesota might do well to amend the amendment rules, stipulating that before amendments appear they should be approved by both the Legislature and the sitting governor.

Republicans say that the voter ID amendment was justified to protect election integrity -- and that the definition of marriage is best decided by all voters instead of a judge or even a legislature working absent of a voter mandate -- but Minnesota voters clearly weren't ready for it this time, and it most surely contributed to a bad day all around for Republican lawmakers.

Today, post-election, there is a lesson for all elected officials to heed, both Republican and Democrat. Overreach is dangerous politically. The Democrats are in charge of things now, and they have said they're well aware of the lessons of Nov. 6, 2012. We hope so.