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 Response Page - Mark Ritchie  Interview - Elections Issues    

These comments are responses to the questions listed below,
which were generated in regard to the
Mark Ritchie Interview of  01-02-09.

The questions:

_6.9 average____1. On a scale of (0) strong disagreement, to (5) neutral, to (10) strong agreement, should Minnesotans be allowed to vote absentee without being required to give a reason?

_8.1 average ____ 2. On a scale of (0) strong disagreement, to (5) neutral, to (10) strong agreement, should political parties, as distinguished from a governmental entity, continue to be responsible for the content and conduct of precinct caucuses?

_6.9 average____ 3. On a scale of (0) strong disagreement, to (5) neutral, to (10) strong agreement, should Minnesota provide for an official presidential preference primary?

Sheila Kiscaden (10) (6) (8)

Paul and Ruth Hauge (9) (5) (8)

Bob Klungness (8) (10) (8)

State Rep. Alan Doty (10) (0) (10)

Don Anderson (10) (10) (0)

Chuck Slocum (10) (10) (7)

More is better in a democracy so voting by absentee or otherwise should be made verifiable and simple, using secure technology advances to include the internet, etc.

Political parties (ID voters, find candidates, develop issues, raise private dollars to pay for it) must embrace new ways of making democracy work better with inclusive and citizen-friendly reforms that engage people beyond precinct caucuses and party organization machinery.

An official presidential preference primary in Minnesota may be helpful and newsworthy but is nonbinding and more “show” than “go.”

Dan McElroy (8) (6) (10)

Tom Abeles (10) (10) (0)

Bill Frenzel (10) (8) (10)

Question 1: Would prevent a lot of perjury by absentee voters

Question 2: Parties ain’t geniuses, but they do have rights.

Question 3: This is the proper way to put the people back in charge of presidential nominations.

John Milton (10) (5) (10)

Carolyn Ring (8) (10) (5)

Question 1: That's really what happens now as one of the reasons is "absent from the precinct on election day," and most people just interpret that loosely if they want to vote absentee. Absentee voting was first designed for people who were ill, infirm or would be out of town on election day, but now many people have realized it is the easiest way to vote. For the last many years, you no longer have to have a notary as a witness and your witness can be a registered voter from any place in the state. And no one checks if they really are. The witness qualification was changed from another registered voter in the same county a few years ago and I was one that advocated the change as we in Richfield had to reject many ballots and we could see what was happening. Older voter's children were their witnesses and they had moved to an outer suburb in another county. However, now, the witness is almost meaningless. The idea, of course, is to be sure the person voting is who they say they are, and no one is coercing them to vote. No matter how you restrict or don't restrict absentee voting, it will be a problem.

Question 3: If precinct caucuses functioned the way they should with a broad base of really interested, knowledgeable participants, they can be preferable to a popularity contest of who has the most money to spend on a primary campaign.

Joe Mansky (10) (10) (5)

Sue St. Germain
Interesting. I would like to see that there is equal representation from each party to insure that the "recounts" are impartial and fair. The Star Tribune showed some votes where some were accepted while others were not. Seemed pretty fishy to me.

Al Quie (0) (10) (10)

Andrew Driscoll (10) (10) (5)

My general response is that Mark is correct on all counts. Any procedures that encourage, even mandate voting should be considered. Voter participation has dropped so dramatically over the last 30 years that tradition must go out the window in favor of major reforms to boost involvement in self-governance. Systems using weekends for voting, "absentee" or early voting, declaring election holidays, statewide instant runoff voting (ranked choice voting is the better term) to assure majority mandates in concert with legitimate multiple party fields would encourage conscience voting followed by practical second choices and provide more choices for a more politically diverse population than a two-party system can possibly reflect. The Presidential Primary might be a good addition, although the jury remains out on that issue. Mark is right about rotating regional primaries. That would address the concerns about preferred states for presidential candidate attention.

Larry and Ann Schluter (9) (7) (7)

I feel before more is done on the presidential primary, primaries need to be done on a regional basis so that a person running does not have to be campaigning on a national basis because of costs. Also, these regions could be staggered every 4 years.

David Broden (0) (10) (7)
My responses are based on ensure that citizens take their responsibility seriously not just to vote to be participants in the understanding and the process in all respects. Pressure to vote early by parties and/or candidates is not a reason, nor is to push for a presidential primary if it has no real purpose other than advertising and public relations. A primary must have value to the process, the candidate, and the people. Parties must remain the focus for caucuses. That is how to keep the parties responsible. Government may work to help facilitize the caucus system--advertising etc.--but the focus for organization and conduct must be the parities' role. Sounds perhaps conservative view but it really is a very responsible citizen role to get involved and make government work--not let government be the doer of all things. Citizens have a responsibility and to make the system work these citizens need to do their thing.

Question 1: Absentee voting must be due to a well defined and justified reason. I will make a difference between absentee and early voting. Early may have a purpose for certain voter situations that are outside the understanding of what absentee voting is. Thus we need to have two clear definitions that address both before we criticize either to the point that they do not apply. We need to update the understanding and use of each type as well as make the process more effective and procedurally clean so errors are less likely. I continue to have the position that there must be a provision for absentee votes and/or early so my comments and position is not to say they should not be allowed but to make each have a well defined purpose etc.

Question 2: The failure of caucuses the past 10+ years is largely due to the actions/(inaction ) of the parties to generate the attendance based on not only a "beauty contest" but also on content and purpose. The role of the state together with the parties can be to make the caucus a sounding board for real content not just the special issue or single issue people. The success of the caucus is, however, a measure of the strength or acceptance of the party involved. Those who attend speak for that party just as they vote for a candidate--thus the support by a party. Government should not prop up the system but only enable its function.

Question 3: I would support the Presidential primary if the primary in some way is more than just a beauty contest--and the actions of the primary are also linked to how the party delegates are selected and function. If the approach used is for the primary to select x% of the delegates and the party selects Y% then we may have an appropriate balance of participant responsibility and role of the party. To move to a primary without the full impact on the citizens, candidates, and the party is not correct.

Terry Stone (0) (5) (10)

Hans Sandbo (5) (10) (2.5)

Question 1: There needs to be a way of making sure absentee voters do not vote twice. Giving a reason is probably not enough but it is probably better than nothing (but not much).

Question 3: I do not understand the value of this.

Jane Kirtley (10) (5) (10)

Robert J. Brown (5) (7) (8)

Question 1: As long as there is an early enough deadline to be able to administer this part of the law to ensure integrity in the voting process.

Question 2: While I believe the parties should be allowed to do what they wish in properly run caucuses I think the state has a role to play in determining when the caucuses are held and requiring that there be transparency in the process. I have not kept up with the law recently, but I know the law used to require that all caucuses be held on the same date and time (I was one of the authors of that provision) and could not be adjourned to a different time and place. By having all caucuses meet at the same time it eliminated the possibility of people attending more than one caucus in the same year (which had been done, sometimes by very well meaning people) and it created the best opportunity to publicize caucuses as a key building block in our political system. For example, when I was GOP Chairman, DFL Chairman Rick Scott and I had joint news conferences promoting caucus attendance. And the prohibition of adjourning to a different time and place was to prevent an organized small group to show up at the appointed time and adjourn to another place and/or time before other citizens arrived. Or the small group could drag things out until enough people got frustrated and then the caucus would be moved.

Question 3: While I support a presidential primary and I think the idea of rotating blocks of regional primaries is a good idea, I think it is more important to move our state primary to June along with some reforms in the process of nominating candidates.

As to the question about allowing the top two to get through the primary regardless of party, that is what we did in legislative races prior to party designation and it is what we do in all other local races. It would probably make for better choices in partisan areas where one party dominates to have two strong people from that party competing in the general election rather than one strong candidate and a token from the other party as is frequently the case now.

Robert A. Freeman (10) (8) (3)
Re: Civic Caucus question about ACORN endorsement – I find it very troubling that a Secretary of State can be a member of a political party, and especially that organizations like ACORN have made it a priority to install Democratic Secretaries of State across the country. I would recommend that future Secretaries be non-partisan --- not just not declaring a party, but having no history of partisan involvement. This would remove any question of bias.

Vici Oshiro (10) (10) (2)
Question 3: Only if part of the regional primary system Mark mentioned.

Tom Dosch (10) (10) (5)

James L. Weaver (10) (2) (10)

Gary Clements (10) (10) (10)

Question 1: Clearly, those folks who want to vote early will give the reason that they will be “out of town” on election day. For some, even the ability to take time off from work to vote may not be viable. There should be a window, perhaps the two weeks before the election, ending on the Friday before the Tuesday of the election, where people can vote at designated sites, subject to the same identification procedures that they would experience at the polls. The ballots should be saved and counted only after the polls close, because it should be possible for a voter to change his/her mind, and show up on voting day. In that case the absentee ballot would be discarded. This is necessary in the unlikely, but proven event that a candidate is found to be unable to serve, as in the case with Paul Wellstone. Then all voters would have the opportunity to cast a meaningful ballot.

Question 2: As much as I do not care for the way delegates to the next level are chosen, I think the parties should be in charge of their own process. However, (in the absence of a true primary) I believe that delegates should be required to declare their preference for a candidate choice at the next level, even if there is no “walking sub-caucus” procedure, as was the case in my precinct this last time. Too many delegates allowed to the next level, too few people available wanting to go.

Question 3: How about 6 presidential preference primaries for the nation, held two weeks apart in blocks of 8 more or less contiguous states, in order for efficient travel and campaigning time before each for the candidates. The primary elections for all parties would be on the same day, hopefully reducing crossover votes. Each subsequent election, the blocks would rotate, in regard to which states get to go first….and last. Two in February, two in March, two in April, leaving about 4 months of general campaigning before party national conventions. Let’s get rid of the “one-upmanship” about who shows first and who might be “discounted”.

Bright Dornblaser (10) (8) (10)

Jim Gelbmann (10) (7) (10)

Keith Swenson (0) (10) (0)

Roy and Blythe Thompson (2) (5) (7)

Charles Lutz (10) (8) (10)

Ed Dirkswager (0) (10) (5)

Alan Miller (5) (10) (10)

State Rep. Andrew Falk (10) (6) (10)

Shari Prest (10) (10) (5)

Question 1: Yes, or we should properly designate early voting. Everyone wins with early voting and voter turnout increases.

Question 2: Yes, if it is made clear that this is and is intended to be a partisan process.

Ray Schmitz (10) (10) (3)

Christine Brazelton (10) (10) (5)

I must say that I was proud of how Minnesota handled our recount. It was open and transparent, and although there were certainly issues with absentee ballots and a few
embarrassing moments when the openness highlighted human error (such as the lost ballots) and irresponsible voters (like the guy voting for lizard people) I believe our basic
process is sound.

Question 1: What real difference does it make? Why reward the liars and punish the honest folk? I would like to see an extended voting period.

Question 2: This is where party building starts. On the other hand, this is not to say that we can't hold a separate balloting process run by the state to determine our presidential

Question 3: Budget constraints may dictate the answer.

Robbie LaFleur (9) (_) (_)

Scott Halstead (5) (0) (10)

Bryan Rossi (10) (8) (5)

What about majority election only - run-offs, or automatic run-off voting?

Tom Swain (2) (9) (2)

Jim Martin (0) (10) (5)

Malcolm McLean (10) (8) (_)

George Pillsbury (10) (10) (5)

Bill Jungbauer (3) (10) (3)

Bill Kuisle (0) (10) (9)

Clarence Shallbetter (4) (6) (4)

Pam Ellison (0) (10) (10)

First of all, I am very relieved we have such and ethical Secretary of State in Mark Ritchie. As I campaigned in 2006, our paths crossed at an initial meeting when we were part of a Senior Federation debate in Hibbing, MN. I met and spoke with Mark then and was impressed by his desire to see that as many people as could vote WOULD vote in our great state. In previous years this has not been the case.

I am also grateful that Mr. Ritchie was at the helm during this most controversial recount. I am disturbed that there has been a trend to have courts decide the fate of elections, since the 2000 Presidential Election, and that the inability of candidates to concede defeat when an election has been called, is tainting the election process. I really feel we are heading down a slippery slope if election decisions are going to be increasingly pushed in to the court system. I understand that we want to be CERTAIN who the winner is in any given contest, however, I believe that when both candidates agree to terms prior to the recount, those rules should stand and be so recognized and enforced by the deciding body, and not be up for grabs again when the recount does not turn out in favor of one of the candidates after the fact. If I am recalling the situation correctly, I believe it was Franken initially that wanted the 12,000 absentee ballots originally counted and it was the Coleman Campaign that did not, and so they were set aside. Now that Franken has apparently won the election, now the Coleman Campaign is WANTED those ballots counted that they originally argued should be set aside, and I don't think it should be allowed.

I believe there needs to be balance between making as certain as possible that all votes were accounted for, and making certain we are not exposing the citizens of Minnesota to a lack of representation in the Senate, due to someone not being able to accept the results of a recount where choices they made prior to the start of the recount were conscientious choices. Going back on your word for how the recount was conducted, should be no measure of taking this to the Supreme Court to make the ultimate decision.

In closing, I wanted to weigh in on the comment of only allowing the top two vote getters to advance to the general election. I believe that first of all, you have three major parties in this state and other minor parties as well. As a member of the Independence Party and as an Independent myself, having never belonged to any of the other parties, I believe that our diverse and complex nation needs more choices for more voices being heard rather than less. I believe that in order for this to be accomplished, I would prefer there being MORE candidates to advance to the general election and say have the top two vote getters from all major parties advance to the general election. Then we would see more choice and it would be much more competitive than to allow only the candidate who have huge war chests to compete. It seems to me that this diminishes the ability of regular people who have the skills to lead, but may not have the impressive coffers to compete on their ability, skill and well thought out campaign ideas. In fact, I wish our state would fully fund campaigns of the candidates their parties choose and limit ALL candidates to using the PCR funding mechanism and that would immediately reform campaign finance money from special interests and soft money issues immediately. Then you would REALLY find out who the best candidates are for the jobs.

Lyall Schwarzkopf (0) (10) (9)
I was responsible for elections in Mpls. When I was City Clerk, I served on an advisory committee to the Federal Elections Commission, I am a head election judge in an 11th Ward precinct, and I believe that if the voters took voting seriously, they would listen to the instructions given to them and fill in the oval in machine precincts correctly. As a challenger for Sen. Coleman, the few ballots that were challenged were mostly because a voter did not follow instructions. Much time was spent on trying to understand the voter's intent. Yet when the voter voted, the machine would not accept an over vote (voting for 2 candidate for the same office). The election judge asked the voter if the voter wanted a new ballot to correct his or her error. If the voter said no, then the remainder of the ballot was counted but the over vote office was not. The voter had expressed his or her intent by not getting a new ballot and voting again. I worry about the civic instructions our children are getting in school about voting and the purpose of political party caucuses.

Shirley Heaton

In Florida we push the early voting and absentee voting as a major feature of our 'get-out-the-vote' campaign. A voter can arrange with the Supervisor of Elections to automatically mail out an absentee ballot if so desired. I'm on the list and it's a real blessing knowing that I don't have to stand in line on election day but can vote in the comforts of my home.


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;  Lee Canning,  Charles Clay, Bill Frenzel, 
Paul Gilje,  Jim Hetland,  John Mooty,  Jim Olson,  Wayne Popham  and  John Rollwagen.  

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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