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 Response Page - Morrison  Interview -      

These comments are responses to the questions listed below,
which were generated in regard to the
Fred Morrison Interview of


Fred Morrison, University of Minnesota professor of law, explains how amendments to the Minnesota constitution are proposed and enacted, noting the "peculiar" majority required when amendments are submitted to a vote of the people. He discusses the difficulty in changing amendments once enacted, compared to changing state law. He explains that with constitutional amendments the Legislature can bypass a Governor's veto and appeal directly to voters.

Possible changes suggested by Morrison include: (a) allowing the Governor to submit amendments directly to voters, without approval of the Legislature, (b) allowing proposed state laws, not only constitutional amendments, to be submitted directly to voters, (c) enacting Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) to reduce polarization between political parties and thereby reduce the temptation to use constitutional amendments to bypass a Governor's veto, and (d) enacting an open primary for candidates for state office to further reduce political polarization.

For the complete interview summary see:

Response Summary: Readers have been asked to rate, on a scale of (0) most disagreement, to (5) neutral, to (10) most agreement, the following points discussed by Fred Morrison. Average response ratings shown below are simply the mean of all readersí zero-to-ten responses to the ideas proposed and should not be considered an accurate reflection of a scientifically structured poll.

1. Governor should approve amendments. (4.2 average response) The Minnesota constitution should be changed to require that amendments be approved by both the Governor and Legislature before being submitted to the voters. Now amendments are submitted after approval only by the Legislature. The Governor plays no role.

2. Governor should propose as well. (2.7 average response) The Governor and the Legislature should both have authority to submit constitutional amendments directly to the voters on their own, without approval by the other. That authority today is held only by the Legislature.

3. Submit laws to vote of people. (3.8 average response) In submitting measures for a vote of the people, Minnesota lawmakers should have authority to submit proposals as state laws, instead of only as constitutional amendments, as is the case now. Such voter-approved laws could be modified by lawmakers as conditions change; a voter-approved amendment may be modified only by another constitutional amendment.

4. Enact ranked choice voting. (5.9 average response) To increase the likelihood of electing more consensus-oriented legislators, who might be less likely to bypass the Governor, Minnesota should enact Ranked Choice Voting (RCV). Candidates under RCV ultimately need a majority of voter support to be elected, a move that could stimulate them to moderate their positions beyond those of their more narrow, traditional political bases.

5. Enact open primary. (5.7 average response) Another approach to stimulate consensus building would be to enact an open primary for the offices of Governor and Legislature. With an open primary only the two top vote getters in a primary election, irrespective of party, would advance to the general election. Consequently, candidates would have incentives to moderate their positions to attract voters beyond their more narrow, traditional political bases.

6. Election, amendment process OK as is. (3.8 average response) No change is needed in the process by which amendments are submitted to the people or the process by which lawmakers are elected.

Response Distribution:

Strongly disagree

Moderately disagree


Moderately agree

Strongly agree

Total Responses

1. Governor should approve amendments.







2. Governor should propose as well.







3. Submit laws to vote of people.







4. Enact ranked choice voting.







5. Enact open primary.







6. Election, amendment process OK as is.







Individual Responses:

Ray Ayotte (7.5) (7.5) (5) (7.5) (7.5) (0)

Pat Barnum (0) (0) (10) (0) (0) (2.5)

2. Governor should propose as well. The legislature is the body that passes laws, hopefully with the will of the people behind them, as they are supposed to be representing citizens. The Governor is part of the checks and balances, and is to lead the government, not the people.

3. Submit laws to vote of people. I would support referendum for state laws. This would keep what ought to be laws out of the Constitution, which should be about the "how" of government, not the "what".

4. Enact ranked choice voting. One person, one vote. Period.

5. Enact open primary. We already have undue direction of voters by the media, and those that know how to best work the media. The current caucus system provides for those that are engaged, and hopefully informed, to do the work of bringing forward candidates to the ballot, before the media gets ahold of it. In addition this proposal assumes that the two party system will be maintained forever. A very bad idea, indeed.

David Dillon (0) (0) (0) (10) (10) (10)

Chris Brazelton (10) (2.5) (5) (10) (10) (0)

1. Governor should approve amendments. Amending the Constitution is a very serious matter and should not be done to overcome partisanship in solving problems that should be solved by careful consideration and enactment of laws. The issues before the legislature now and in the recent past would have been better addressed in enactment or veto of laws and should not be codified into our Constitution.

2. Governor should propose as well. When using amendments as an "end-around" to avoid partisan differences, it is highly likely to be an emotionally charged issued that does not lend itself to thoughtful consideration and resolution. I would like to see neither the Legislature nor the Governor being able to bypass each other in this way.

3. Submit laws to vote of people. While I agree that it makes sense to enact laws rather than constitutional amendments to address most of the issues that have been put forward as amendments, I would hate to end up with the mess they have in California with proposition after proposition coming before the voters, many of which are in conflict with existing laws or each other and having the state have to bear the confusion and expense of sorting out the conflicting laws. This question asks one to choose between two bad ideas.

4. Enact ranked choice voting. Far better to have moderate legislators who are willing to work together to write and enact good laws and this would start with moderate candidates rather than extremist candidates endorsed by extremist organizing units ending up as the only choice for a particular party on a ballot. RCV is my first choice to avoid the high cost of an open primary.

5. Enact open primary. Far better to have moderate legislators who are willing to work together to write and enact good laws and this would start with moderate candidates rather than extremist candidates endorsed by extremist organizing units ending up as the only choice for a particular party on a ballot. This is my second choice as open primaries are costly; RCV would accomplish this goal better and with less expense.

Dave Broden (2.5) (0) (0) (2.5) (10) (7.5)

1. Governor should approve amendments. The issue is not having the governor in the decision process; the issue is that the legislature is not doing its duty. One way to address this could be that a simple majority in the legislature requires the governorís support to be an amendment, but if a 60% vote of the legislature applies the governor is not required to be involved. I focus on legislative responsibility.

2. Governor should propose as well. The governor should not have independent authority--legislative participation as outlined in item 1 above should apply.

3. Submit laws to vote of people. The constitution must not allow legislation by the public-- we need to restate the clear responsibility of elected legislators in the republic system. To begin a referendum government approach would lead to bad and poorly thought out legislation or law that would evolve emotionally rather than serious debate related.

4. Enact ranked choice voting. I continue to have problems with RCV since it promotes parliamentary groups and parliamentary government. I do not concur that RCV will necessarily result in a new attitude in the elected officials. We need a general relook at how government works and why.

5. Enact open primary. Open primaries basically are in place today but the parties operate with endorsements that shape the candidate biases in a fixed party platform or caucus opinions-- candidates must evolve the backbone to stand above the party position or caucus position and express independent view. This requires candidates who have the mind to move this direction. Open primaries alone will not do it but more emphasis can help.

6. Election, amendment process OK as is. The process is set to work in (a) rational way --the issue is how the influence of party, caucus, and individual political biases are influencing and operating outside the intent of the law and the state constitution.

Anonymous (0) (10) (10) (0) (10) (10)

Bruce Lundeen (0) (7.5) (7.5) (7.5) (2.5) (5)

1. Governor should approve amendments. Requiring approval of both the Governor and the Legislature before being submitted to the voters would negate the "reality check" function of proposed constitutional amendments.

John Mills (10) (7.5) (2.5) (10) (10) (2.5)

W. D. (Bill) Hamm (0) (0) (0) (5) (0) (10)

1. Governor should approve amendments. Leave things as they are; this is a division of power issue.

2. Governor should propose as well. No reason for such foolishness.

3. Submit laws to vote of people. We elect these people to do this job; let them do it.

4. Enact ranked choice voting. Does nothing to excite or turn out more voters.

5. Enact open primary. All this proposal does is further undermine the political process thereby further eroding participation.

6. Election, amendment process OK as is. If it ain't broken don't fix it. What serves this upper middle crust Professor does little or nothing to serve this working class fool.

Scott Halstead (5) (5) (5) (10) (10) (0)

1. Governor should approve amendments. Amendments to the constitution should require a super majority on both houses and that they pay for the total cost of the election in advance.

2. Governor should propose as well. The citizens of Minnesota should be able to submit a constitutional amendment with a majority of elgible voters.

Mary Jane Morrison (0) (0) (0) (0) (0) (7.5)

6. Election, amendment process OK as is. The Wisconsin practice of requiring amendment proposals to pass two successive legislatures [i.e., separated by a general election] before being submitted to the people is a system well worth considering as better than Minnesota's. The two-legislatures/general-election combination probably often allows for more consideration by the legislators and the voting public.

Don Anderson (10) (7.5) (2.5) (7.5) (7.5) (2.5)

1. Governor should approve amendments. Might be a good idea. The present system is too one-sided.

2. Governor should propose as well. Might lessen the number of Constitutional amendments being proposed.

4. Enact ranked choice voting. Might be worth a try.

5. Enact open primary. Would there be a need for a party system?

Ralph Brauer (10) (0) (7.5) (7.5) (7.5) (2.5)

1. Governor should approve amendments. This is really a response to all the questions. First, this was one of the best, most stimulating conversations yet. It shows what can happen if you bring ins someone without a partisan or bureaucratic agenda who has thought deeply about an issue. I will hope this creates opportunities for more university faculty--and by that I mean all our colleges and universities. Second, this is clearly a place where a systemic approach would be most helpful. The questions are interrelated and even contradictory. Professor Morrison gets this as is indicated by his response to the purpose of constitutions, but unfortunately the questioners failed to probe further in a systemic way. It seems that what he was saying is that we need a way for both the legislature and governor to take issues to the people, but that a constitutional amendment is not the way to go since it ties everyone's hands. Morrison seemed to indicate that were the state to move to something like a referendum process that it should use weighted voting, but there was not much follow-up on that.

5. Enact open primary. Curiously this is the way our Republic ran in its early days. It is also the way we run local elections such as school board or council.

Robert J. Brown (0) (0) (10) (na) (10) (10)

Chuck Lutz (10) (1) (7) (10) (7) (0)

Arvonne Fraser (0) (0) (2) (0) (0) (0)

Does Morrison want to make us like California--ungovernable and almost bankrupt? That's what happens when you have popularity contests, not deliberation about law making. Morrison, as a lawyer, should know that.

Al Quie (0) (0) (10) (0) (8) (0)

Joseph Mansky (1) (1) (1) (na) (1) (1)

1. Governor should approve amendments. My preference is to leave proposing constitutional amendments in the hands of the legislature. I would, however, suggest that a 60% vote by both the House and Senate be required to place proposed amendments on the ballot. That is the current requirement to authorize state bonding.

3. Submit laws to vote of people. Generally speaking, I am not in favor of initiative or referendum, which I believe undermines the conventional legislative process.

4. Enact ranked choice voting. I believe that RCV is more appropriate to our primary process, not the general election.

5. Enact open primary. I do not support an open primary, but do support a primary in which the top two vote getters go on to the general election, irrespective of party affiliation. California recently adopted this system Ė letís see how it fares there.

William Kuisle (0) (0) (0) (0) (5) (0)

What is need is a higher benchmark for passage of the legislature. It should be a super majority as is the bonding bill. Another change should be that it takes 60 % of the voters to pass the amendment. This would solve a lot of the problems.

Wayne Jennings (10) (1) (1) (5) (7) (3)

Jack Evert (5) (5) (1) (10) (10) (1)

Ann Schluter (8) (2) (2) (5) (7) (2)

The current system is not working and it should be more difficult to get a constitution amendment done.

Dick Conklin (0) (0) (0) (10) (5) (9)

Lyall Schwarzkopf (3) (3) (1) (1) (3) (7)

Jerry Fruin (3) (8) (10) (5) (5) (2)

Carolyn Ring (4) (4) (1) (7) (8) (5)

I do not like to see us legislate by amendment as California and Florida have been doing. Minnesota's law for passing an amendment is fairly stringent in that a majority of those voting must approve, not just majority voting on the amendment. The "popularity" of amendments nationwide seems to have increased with the current polarization of the two parties and a lack of respect for alternative views.

Alan Miller (5) (8) (2) (8) (2) (1)

As in some other states, a requirement that before a new Constitutional Amendment is accepted, it must past two Legislatures, separated by an election year in which at least one House is up for vote.

Malcolm McLean (10) (1) (3) (5) (7) (2)

I learned from Mr. Morrison's thoughts. Thank you.

Tom Swain (2) (0) (0) (10) (2) (8)

Paul and Ruth Hauge (9) (3) (2) (7) (5) (4)

Tom Spitznagle (0) (0) (10) (6) (4) (7)

Allowing the governor to submit amendments directly to the public concentrates too much power in one person (who may have been elected by only a slim margin). The members of the legislature as a whole are much more representative of the citizens of Minnesota.

An open primary could yield two candidates offering the same philosophies and/or priorities whereas the current system guarantees that different philosophies will always be available to voters. Also, an open primary would serve to solidify a party's hold in some districts - not a very democratic approach.

Bert LeMunyon (10) (2.5) (2.5) (10) (0) (0)

2. Governor should propose as well. I think that amendments to the MN Constitution should require approval of both the legislature and the governor.

3. Submit laws to vote of people. Legislators are elected to represent the people. By submitting issues to the voters, legislators are shirking their responsibility and don't want to deal with tough issues.

4. Enact ranked choice voting. All elected officials should enjoy the support of a majority of the voters.




The Civic Caucus   is a non-partisan, tax-exempt educational organization.   The Core participants include persons of varying political persuasions, reflecting years of leadership in politics and business. Click here  to see a short personal background of each.

   Verne C. Johnson, chair;  David Broden, Charles Clay, Marianne Curry, Bill Frenzel, Paul Gilje,  Jim Hetland,  Marina Lyon,
Joe Mansky,  John Mooty,  Jim Olson,  and  Wayne Popham 

The Civic Caucus, 01-01-2008
8301 Creekside Circle #920,   Bloomington, MN 55437.
Verne C. Johnson, chair, 952-835-4549,       Paul A. Gilje, coordinator, 952-890-5220.

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