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There was no need for Ritchie’s changes

July 11, 2012
Gary Andersen, Lee Smith , Fairmont Sentinel

For politicians, just about everything is political. As citizens and voters, we shouldn't be surprised. We should be aware.

The main tool of the politician is rhetoric. That is, words. Framing a debate or an issue in such a way as to convince, or fool, the voters into backing their cause. For instance: To some politicians, wealthy Americans are greedy people who do not pay their "fair share" of taxes. To others, wealthy Americans are to be applauded as "job-creators." You get the idea.

In Minnesota, the battle over political rhetoric is heating up over two ballot questions that will appear before voters this fall. One issue deals with a ban an same-sex marriage. The other would require citizens to present a photo ID in order to vote. Those are simple explanations of the proposals.?Hopefully, we haven't phrased them in a biased way. The same cannot be said for what the politicians are up to.

Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, a Democrat, has been reworking the titles of these proposals. (Attorney General Lori Swanson, also a Democrat, validated his changes.) Critics say Ritchie is playing politics. Clearly, he is.

The original title of the marriage amendment was: "Recognition of Marriage Solely Between One Man and One Woman." Ritchie's change: "Limiting the Status of Marriage to Opposite Sex Couples." Republicans say Ritchie is trying to create the impression that the state's attitude toward marriage would change under the proposed amendment, when, in fact, the proposal mirrors existing state law.

On the ID issue, the original proposal read:?"Photo Identification Required for Voting." Ritchie's change:?"Changes to In-Person & Absentee Voting & Voter Registration; Provisional Ballots." In this case, Ritchie's change is as clear as mud. The original language is straightforward.

As matters of policy, we have stated our support for the photo ID amendment and opposition to the marriage amendment. But we don't like Ritchie's changes in either case. Those who draft and pass the amendments - state lawmakers - should be able to describe these proposals as they meant them. The law allows Ritchie to interject himself into these matters, but doing so has not made the ballot questions easier for voters to understand. That's a disservice to citizens, despite what Ritchie may believe about these amendments.



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