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Meeting with Andy Cilek
8301 Creekside Circle, Bloomington, MN 55437
Thursday, May 3, 2007
Thursday’s discussion on potential election reform
was vigorously delivered by Andy Cilek, founder and chairman of the
Minnesota Voters Alliance, a seven person organization seeking to abolish
nonpartisan elections throughout Minnesota and to challenge once again
term limits for city elections. His two co-founders are Matt Marchetti, a
communications major at the University of Minnesota and an employee of MN
Revenue and Ph.D. Mike Degnan of the Philosophy department at the
University of St. Thomnas. Also, Ph. D. Terry Flower, a former member of
the Metropolitan Council, sits on their advisory board. &n bsp;
Verne Johnson, Chair, and Lee Canning, temporary note taker.
Verne Johnson, chair; Lee Canning, Chuck Clay, Jim Hetland and Jim Olson
– Verne introduced Andy Cilek, a native of St. Paul, who spent four
years in the U.S. Marines and has studied at both the University of
Minnesota and St. Thomas University. He works for an internet advertising
company in Minnetonka and lives in Eden Prairie. He formed the Minnesota
Voters Alliance (MVA) as a 501c4 in 2003. The Alliance<
/st1:place> website is at
www.MNVoters.org. A grass roots organization, it is not affiliated
with any party.
– Cilek’s presentation focused primarily on changing elections in
Minnesota to a partisan basis and in opposing Instant Runoff Voting
cited the nonpartisan election of all offices including judges as a
widely recognized fault in Minnesota’s voting processes. He believes that
partisan basis elections offer voters a “realistic opportunity to cast an
“informed vote” by revealing the political affiliations of the
candidates, if any, and printing such designations on the ballot. And,
Cilek believes, partisan elections provide a healthier diversity of
viewpoints and stronger, more transplant elections, thus giving voters the
power to ensure greater accountability. Minnesota Voters Alliance (MVA)
literature, made available at our meeting, says “regardless of whether or
not judicial candidates receive contributions from political parties, they
are still by statutory definition considered “members of political
parties” as they, too are voting citizens. Claiming to be “qualified” or
“having the right temperament” does not tell voters much of anything as
evidence by surveys conducted by the MVA.
Voters Alliance also believes that most people confuse the word “nonpartisan”
with “impartial.” But without knowledge of a judge’s political
leanings how can a voter determine if a decision is influenced by
partisanship. The partisan/nonpartisan debate is not about impartiality
or conscientious governance, it’s about keeping voters informed, says
major point of emphasis dealt with Instant Runoff Voting (IRV). In
response to proponents of IRV who allege that the present primary
system “undermines the 50%+1 majority-winner” practice, Cilek responds,
“Where is it written we must have a 50%+1 majority-winner requirement?
The Founding Fathers built a constitutional republic, not a majority-rule
because a pure majority rule often leads to tyranny.” IRV doesn’t
solve this perceived problem, it only creates an artificially fabricated
majority by counting second and third choices. In addition, his materials
say that the more candidates there are in an IRV race, the more
difficult it will be for voters to gain knowledge of the various
candidates. According to the Minnesota Voters Alliance, primaries provide
an organized environment for debate and have proven to be an essential
part of the electoral process. The purpose primaries is to allow voters to
“select” candidates to represent their views in the general election, to
force candidates to prove themselves worthy to serve, and to reduce the
field of candidates to a more practical number.
In responding to
the position of IRV supporters that such a process would eliminate
low-turnout primaries and bring the most voters together with the most
candidates to choose from at the same election, Minnesota Voters Alliance
literature replies, “Where does it say that low primary turnout is a bad
thing? Those who show up decide who the candidates are. If people don’t
show up, it must mean it’s not that important to them and that’s their
right too.” IRV is more likely to deter serious candidates who
woul d otherwise run but lack the necessary name recognition to overcome
activist factions, according to Cilek.
Minnesota Voters Alliance position believes that in an increasingly
diverse political environment, a plurality system (where the candidate who
receives the most votes wins, even if it is less than 50%) is far superior
to one that creates only an artificial majority. If IRV became the
norm, “we could easily end up with a one party system made up of a
tyrannical ruling elite,” says an MVA position paper. It goes on to say
that IRV serves only to suppress viewpoints, limit accountability
by diminishing party influence, create more opportunities for
irregularities and manipulation and further disenfranchise voters by
removing them one more step from the electoral process.
Minnesota Voters Alliance positions as stated in documentation Cilek made
available dealt with redistricting and campaign finance. A
constitutionally mandated method of setting district boundaries should be
adopted to avoid gerrymandering and campaign financial challenges require
full disclosure and/or government funding.
Questions and Answers
Question: What is your organization
(the MVA) all about? Answer: Every
entitled to advance a candidate to the general election in addition to
each qualified independent candidate. We are for partisan elections.
How would you deal
with nonpartisan situations such as election of school boards or municipal
officials in which parties don’t participate and whose areas of interest
generally have no political flavor? Answer: Our surveys show that
voters are most interested in knowing the party of a candidate. People
deserve all the help and they can get and people should not be deprived of
valuable information such as the party affiliation of candidates.
For some reason, the
democratic system in Minnesota is not working well. There appears to be
much too much impact by special interest groups and too much disagreement
between the parties. How would you address this? Answer:
Regarding the parties, I disagree. Disagreement is a good thing. As
Thomas Jefferson stated, there must, by the nature of man, be violent
dissensions and discord. Regarding special interest groups, there will
always be those two.
Do you feel that individuals elected to the state legislature are too
heavily slanted towards special interest groups? Answer: Our
response is to have term limits. They already are in place in 23 states.
Do you believe party designation should be on the ballot for every
office? Answer: Yes, if there is an election, the party
designations of the candidates should be printed on the ballot.
Question: What is your reaction to the Quie Commission
report on the election of judges? Answer: We absolutely reject
what the Quie commission is doing. Article 6 of the Minnesota Constitution
guarantees us the right to elect judges. We believe voters should keep
that right. We agree that the current system is broken believe that Canon
5 is completely worthless, but we should fix the main problem (nonpartisan
elections) by going to partisan ‘basis’ elections, not taking away the
citizens right to vote. .
The Civic Caucus
is a non-partisan,
tax-exempt educational organization. Core participants
include persons of varying political persuasions, reflecting
years of leadership in politics and business.
A working group meets face-to-face to
provide leadership. They are Verne C. Johnson, chair; Lee
Canning, Charles Clay, Bill Frenzel,
Paul Gilje, Jim Hetland,
John Mooty, Jim Olson, Wayne Popham and John Rollwagen.