News Releases

Call for a Federal Capital Budget

National and Minnesota Report

Since the Senator Tina Smith (D-MN) has experience with Capital Bonding as Lt Governor, she should propose through legislation the formation of a Federal Capital Budget. This is an idea Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-09, CA) has previously discussed. As did we. Trump Following a Good Idea From Pelosi

If we did so the ability to pay for infrastructure would be far easier and not as onerous as a proposition. Yes, tax increases on the wealthy should remain to address the fiscal hole Republicans created but this idea would resolve the questions on how the 6 trillion is financed. Involvement in the Bond Market would create a strong public/private partnership.

We hope Senator Smith is listening.

It’s Plausible for Ranked Choice Voting to be Banned in Minnesota

Minnesota Report

Anyone who has read Checks & Balances for the last decade know our Publisher Shawn Towle is a staunch opponent of Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) and he will be testifying before the State Government Finance Conference Committee on HF1952. The Senate Republican Majority has a ban on the voting system in their bill and the House Members have an opportunity to support the Senate position and include this in the final bill, but it will take courage for Reps Mike Nelson (DFL-40A, Brooklyn Park), Emma Greenman (DFL-63B, Minneapolis) Sandra Masin (DFL-51A, Eagan) and Tou Xiong (DFL-53A, Maplewood) to do so. Two factors are, Nelson, Masin and Xiong all live in cities without (RCV), also there is a bill in the House calling for implementation of RCV to all election in the state. There are 35 coauthors listed on the bill and that is exactly have of the DFL Caucus.

If the ban were included and the implementation date were July 1, 2021 then this would dramatically change how city council members are chosen, back to the way it was and especially in Minneapolis this might fix the number of poor members from being returned to office.

Here is Towle’s testimony.

Chairs Kiffmeyer, Nelson and members of the Conference Committee,

 

My name is Shawn Towle and I am mainly known in Minnesota politics as the Publisher of Checks & Balances, MN’s first digital political magazine (1995). I have always considered our work to be an advocacy platform and have regularly called balls and strikes on different pieces of legislation and issues we find ourselves concerned with in our state.

Ranked Choice Voting is the Minnesota Big Lie.

I have personally objected to Ranked Choice Voting (RCV), Instant Run-off Voting (IRV) or any system that is a single transferable vote. Why because it unfairly advantages one voter with more influence over an another, this is a violation of my understanding of one-person one-vote provision in the 14th Amendment of the US Constitution. And yes, my sentiments are in direct opposition to the position taken by the State Supreme Court in the case MINNESOTA VOTERS ALLIANCE v. FairVote Minnesota, Inc (2009).

I may not be a lawyer, but if I pick one person and one person only and that person, is one of the last two on the ballot, my vote is a constant. It is not redistributed and counted each round only the votes of the people whose prior choice was dropped from the ballot are applied to another person and counted again. In St Paul, where I reside currently, you are allowed to choose up to 6 candidates for a specific office, I only vote for one as a protest against the system, but my ballot is not seen this way.

So, the lesser candidates supporters determine the outcome. This is a system ripe for candidates to collude, cross endorse and game the system. In fact, FairVoteMN is now doing training and suggesting such practices. Allowing a vote to continue when mine is held fast is direct example in opposition to one person one vote. this question has never been truly tested in court. Also, the concept of voting for multiple people while other voters vote for a single person is also a violation of the same amendment in the Equal Protection Clause, which intends for the weight of one voter not to be greater or lesser that of other voters.

One lie told by FairVoteMN and its supporters is the Minnesota Supreme Court vetted these constitutional questions they clearly did not because they asserted the point a city has the right to move forward because of the passage of IRV by referendum. To this I will say, the fact a referendum on an issue of elections is something specifically this committee should cast a disparaging eye toward. Election Law at all levels should rest solely in the hands of the state legislature and not a locality.

Why because you are allowing the fox to guard the hen house. When city council or county board acts on the system that selects them, even putting the issue up before the people, they are still the ones to change the charter by fiat. In St Louis Park they didn’t even hold a referendum the city council passed the matter unanimously and it became the order of the day for the next election, they the same council set the parameters for the election.

Now, in Minneapolis you have three votes, as I said in St Paul six votes, in the two newest RCV communities Bloomington I’m not sure, but I have heard they will have six votes, and Minnetonka I don’t know. But these inconsistencies, the ability to stack the deck and for the reasons I explain later this system should go the way of the Dodo bird, because it is a bird-brained system. Its full concept is to fractionalize single seats and apportion them to the percentages in an election so if you get 62% in your election you only have 62% of representation and your opponent’s their percentages. Try caucusing with that.

In the aforementioned case the City asserts(ed) that IRV serves the following interests:

(1) Because the citizens of Minneapolis adopted IRV by referendum, IRV serves the purpose of respecting the democratic process;

(2) Because IRV requires only one election, rather than separate primary and general elections, IRV reduces the inconvenience and costs to voters, candidates, and taxpayers;

(3) IRV will increase voter turnout;  and

(4) IRV encourages less divisive campaigns as candidates seek support for second- and subsequent-choice votes.

Respondent FairVote argues that IRV serves the following interests in addition to those identified by the City:

(1) IRV promotes the election of candidates with majority mandates, eliminating plurality winners in one-seat races;

(2) IRV eliminates the “spoiler” effect of third-party candidacies;  and

(3) IRV helps insure more diverse representation by promoting minority representation in multiple-seat races.

Well, Item 1) is true, 2) is not. The thought voting is an inconvenience when it is a right and a privilege is as a veteran something I take serious offense to. Also, it is not cheaper because the machinery to tabulate is more expensive, there is not and should be an ongoing training of the use of this system every election and in Ramsey County FairVoteMN was paid to do the training again a fox on duty. Additionally, until the machinery is approved everywhere has to hand tabulate, which is very costly in man hours, and just wait until it’s in effect for all race in all counties the costs will mushroom. Oh, and waiting 2-3 weeks for a result will become the rule and not the exception.

There are many aspects of this system that fail to meet it’s promise, 3) turnout has not increased since inception, with one exception, in St Paul in 2017 I will argue an open mayoral seat had more to do with turnout than the voting system.

4) It does not stop negative campaign it only shifts it to outside groups like PAC’s and independent expenditure groups just ask Mayor Melvin Carter about the gun letter.

Now to FairVoteMN’s claims which are all false.

Items 1 & 2, The number of times a majority has occurred in Ranked Choice Voting has been less than 40% and in a majority of instances and when it does happen it’s the incumbent who receives such and this doesn’t foster third-party benefits in the system. 3) Misguided supporters have claimed its advances diversity especially on the Minneapolis City Council, frankly, this is unequivocally untrue. A system does not determine qualitative aspects of an election and decide the diversity of representation, the voters do.

This issue may seem appealing because it offers a variety of choices, but if many choices are the goal then next time you go to a restaurant order every item on the menu, because making a choice is not necessary and something we should support parenthetically. Note the sarcasm for effect.

Being able to discern the qualities of one candidate from another and sometimes we might not get it right, but with Ranked Choice Voting, its everyone in the pool and only two eventually emerge or at least only two we know. To me this is the greatest injustice, it is the fact as many as 23% of the electorate have been disenfranchised through this system. If you are not wise enough to predict the two eventual emergents, in Minneapolis your vote is logged as Exhausted in St Paul it is Unassigned, this means these votes have no value to the final outcome and effectively need not have been cast at all. Now talk about inconveniencing the voter.

Viewing this system in a partisan lens, and I am a proud DFLer, this system has not seen an endorsed candidate for mayor in either Minneapolis or St Paul since its inception. It structurally, places candidates on the general election ballot who could not find support for their candidacies except they have the means to pay the filing fee. This means high qualified candidates have to wade through the muck and mire attending debates that give equal time to people who clearly distract from the publics interest and offer a huge number of voices from whom to decide. In the first contested election in Minneapolis there were 35 candidates for mayor and the ability for voters to discern is complicated overly much.

Additionally, legislators are often admonished for challenging the motivations of their colleagues, but in this case, people should seek to understand the motivations of FairVoteMN and the principal funder John Arnold, which created the John and Laura Arnold Foundation, John is a past ENRON Executive and made his money bilking utility rate payers in Texas and California. Why is this information offered because FairVoteMN and FairVote nationally are recipients of dark money contributions John Arnold: The Most Hated Man in Pensionland to this end he contributed over 9 million to the U of MN’s Heller-Hurwicz Economics Institute at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management

Arnold wants to privatize public pensions and destabilize local government to make this possible. Any endorsed DFLer should rescind their party endorsement if they fail to see this as anything short of their support facilitates threats to public pensions.

Finally, I will close with this article from the Late Great Minnesotan, Vice-President Walter Mondale, who said in the Duluth News Tribune in 2015 the following in an Op/Ed piece.

Ranked Choice Voting Will Not Improve Democracy.

“I hope Duluth voters reject the effort to change their city’s charter. Please vote “no” on the ranked choice voting amendment.

Voting in America should be plain and simple. Ranked-choice voting is neither. It is confusing and complex.

Academic study after academic study shows that while affluent and well-educated voters do well with ranked-choice voting, it often disadvantages others, particularly older voters.

If you think our American voting system should be transparent for all, then vote “no” on ranked-choice voting.

Mayor Don Ness has said that when he first ran with 11 opponents, a ranked-choice voting format would not have allowed a real debate to take place about Duluth’s future.

He is absolutely right. In the 2013 Minneapolis city election, 20 percent of the voters who came out and voted did not get their vote counted in the final round of counting in the mayor’s race.

That’s the very definition of disenfranchisement. Supporters of ranked-choice voting say their system guarantees a majority winner. But there was no majority winner under ranked-choice voting in the Minneapolis mayor’s race, and there was no majority winner in two City Council races.

Ranked-choice voting will not bring us more democracy. It favors elites who know how to work the new and complex system.

Finally, you should know that nearly a third of the cities that have adopted ranked-choice voting have repealed it. Duluthians always have been common-sense people.

I hope you demonstrate that same common sense Tuesday and vote “no” on ranked-choice voting.

 

Walter F. Mondale

Minneapolis

 

I thank the members of the committee for you time and attention to this significant matter,

 

Shawn Towle

Little Public Safety Reform Happens in a Conference Committee

Minnesota Report

As people are watching the Conference Committee on S.F. 970 – Omnibus judiciary and public safety finance and policy bill they are seeing a process of going through the motions. It doesn’t make good television and is a series of talking heads many saying important things but the two sides are merely two ship passing each other in the dark of night where neither has its lights on and hopefully they don’t crash.

We except nothing of substance to result from this conference, but there is actual reform that does take place and in spite of Sen Warren Limmer (R-34, Maple Grove) protestations it occurs on the Minnesota Board of Peace Officer Standards and Training and is best shown from the words of Executive Director Erik Misselt. On the Board website the What’s New information spells it out clearly the progress being made. https://dps.mn.gov/entity/post/Pages/default.aspx

For those seeking justice for George Floyd, Duante Wright and Philando Castille. Change is coming.

Credit for Eight Congressional Districts Goes to Somalis and Hmong

Minnesota Report

The fact Minnesota retained it 8 Congressional Districts in 2010 and 2020 is do to the two immigrant populations of Somalis and Hmong who came to our state in the 1970-80’s. If it weren’t for this in migration, we would have lost our federal representation. The US Census data will likely show the dispersion across the state by the Somalis to Rochester and St Cloud, but the Hmong stay closer to the twin cities and the closer in suburbs, even though they farm the southern suburbs.

Additionally, because these population or increasing in size do to great numbers for childbirth also helps keep use ahead of other states, in spite of our growth rate in 2020 slowed to .31% down from .56% in 2019.

Minnesota Retains Eight Congressional Districts and the Future of the GOP Senate Majority Looks Bleak

Minnesota Report

The early report of the state population totals by the US Census Bureau carried pleasant news for our state yesterday. The decennial counting of heads is always a time of winners and losers and once again we snuck past New York by 89 people to retain our eight Congressional seats. Our hard count established by April 1, 2020 as 5,709,752. We are up from 5,303,925 in 2010 or an increase of 6.3%. The total population of the nation is 331,108,434. Granted, the 572,000 deaths from COVID-19 are not reflected in this figure

Seven states lost representation California (-1), Illinois (-1), Michigan (-1), New York (-1), Ohio (-1), Pennsylvania (-1) and West Virginia (-1) and six states gained, Colorado (+1), Florida (+1), Montana (+1), North Carolina (+1), Oregon (+1) and Texas (+2).

The size of our Congressional district grew to 713,719 up 50,728 from 662,991. What we also learn from our state population is the size of out state legislative districts. A Senate seat will now be 85,220 up from 79,163 and a House seat will be 42,610 up from 39,582. The ability for Republican Senators to gain 6,057 will be a sizable challenge because the bulk of their seats are in Greater Minnesota which we believe has not grown proportionally to the seven-county metropolitan area. This data will be released in September.

This means Minneapolis will have to hold municipal elections this year and again in 2022.

End the Use of Latinex

Minnesota and National Report

An interesting position has been brought to our attention from political people who identify as Hispanic, they believe the term Latinex cost Democratic votes in states like Arizona, California, Florida, New Mexico and Texas. The reason being it sounds like a white person’s slogan and just as Nova was a bad name of a car in Mexico so is this term.

This is a real example of cancel culture.

What Do the Chauvin Verdicts Mean?

Minnesota, and National Report

It’s sad that our state is the focal point for so much consternation in this nation. We have now justifiably convicted two police officers for killing people while in uniform, Mohamed Noor and now Derek Chauvin. The key evidence in both instances was video footage. This means the conviction occurred because other people saw what they did and they couldn’t cover it up or the Blue Shield didn’t circle the wagons.

As we wrote this piece, Attorney General Merrick Garland announced a probe by the Department of Justice into the procedures and practices of the Minneapolis Police Department.

As we look past the Chauvin trial onto the trials of J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao, we will see if aiding and abetting to the crime of 2nd Degree murder, can hold up when the jury pool has clearly been affected by the Chauvin proceedings. The next trials in August will have the same information, but because Chauvin was the senior officer he will likely be scapegoated by the defense of the others.

Noor was convicted because he fired at Justine Damond indiscriminately, Chauvin because he was vicious and cruel, but what about Kim Potter? She was the training officer called out Taser numerous times and then drew her service weapon. Will a white woman get the same response as a Muslim black male and a white oppressor, we doubt it?

In the press conference following Potter’s Chief Tim Gangnon referred to her shooting as “An Accidental Discharge.” Why because she doesn’t know her left from her right hand?

If guns are not used as a last resort and cops who swore to protect and serve don’t start upholding their oaths we will never get past this smear on our country. The racial divide is vast, these killings show a great diversity in their incidences and show the pink underbelly of our society and its vulnerabilities. Rescinding the qualified immunity provision that protects law enforcement from prosecution is a good start.

All law enforcement should be put under the microscope and anytime a shot is fired by a police officer it is a failure in the performance of their duty. Remove the warrior mentality, the shoot first, ask questions later and remove the qualified immunity for law enforcement. Make cops live under the same laws as everyone else, live in the communities they work and get them out of their cars and back on the street where they should belong.

Passing of a Great Man

Minnesota and National Report

The announcement of the death of former Vice-President Walter Fritz Mondale hit hard. Checks & Balances Publisher Shawn Towle had the opportunity to talk with him on numerous occasions especially their shared distain for Ranked Choice Voting and how it adversely impacts the very people its falsely claims to serve. Mondale was a man of profound thought, genial character and great compassion.

His voice will be missed, his legacy will be felt and his example one for the ages. Others can do well to follow his lead. He paved the way for Vice-President Kamala Harris (D) through his own work in the office and the selection of Congresswoman Geraldine Ferraro (D) in 1984. He was an exemplar elder statesman readily available to come to another aide with advice and support.

He served Minnesota well and Attorney General, US Senator and as Vice-President and our nation would have been far better had he defeated Ronald Reagan (R) the third worst President in modern day behind Donald J Trump (R) and George W Bush (R).

Call for an End of Cable Broadcast Television Fee

Minnesota Report

When something is freely available to the public a private company should not be able to charge you for its use. This is blatantly wrong. The cable television business is doing this by charging nearly $20.00 a month for the use of local television channels on their system.

The broadcast channels are a public good and should not be hijacked by the cable system, or any digital company. This should end now and the legislature has the power to do so. This matter is in the hands of the two respective Commerce Committees in the House Commerce Finance and Policy Chair Zack Stevenson (DFL-36A, Coon Rapids) and in the Senate Commerce and Consumer Protection Finance and Policy Chair Gary Dahms, (R-16, Redwood Falls).

In the Ongoing Trump Era, Are There Really Two Sides to Every Coin?

National and Minnesota Report

As the influence of Donald J Trump (R) continues to affect the Republican parties at both federal and state levels, as is the case in Minnesota, the push for legislation to tighten voting standards and processes, like Photo ID continue. In spite of the fact this issue failed a public referendum in 2012. On a vote of 47.44% for to 52.56% against, with the 2nd, 6th and 7th Congressional Districts voting in favor. (This shows the political differential that has exist in MN for nearly a decade)

The fact, there is a bi-polar divide in our nation and state continues to be a reality, and since Minnesota is the only state with divided government it plays out here best. As people on the opposite side like to say, there are two sides to every coin, it is the case it’s the same coin and only worth a specific amount. Truth is the face showing doesn’t matter when its spent. No one cares what face what showing when it’s put on the counter. We are a politically bipolar nation.

The structural opposition to expansion of voting opportunities is emblematic because Republicans know, more votes cast in an election provides and unfavorable result for their candidates in most instances. Longer voting time periods, mailed balloting, easier poll access is not component parts favored with Republican support, because it will not reward their side of the aisle. In an outcome-based solution, less is more is the Republican mantra.

As we have clearly stated, DFLers want every eligible vote to be cast and the question of legality is left for after the election, Republicans want only, what they declare as only all legal votes to be cast and those are determined in advance of the election. Voting by illegal immigrants, convicted felons still on paper, and other jurisdictional issues are the heightened sense of a fear that elections can be manipulated or stolen. This is not a concept that started with Trump, but one perpetuated by him. Again, Republicans do care about a fair election system just one where they win, because if they fail to win, it must be inherently unfair.

Post-Trump the political perspectives have not eased, but rather hardened. The two-sides get more entrenched, and locked into the camps. With the census data pending and a shift in political strength for the GOP set to diminish, merely based on a state population shift, more spurs will be applied to prevent any dramatic shifts. When Greater Minnesota loses its perceived position of political parity, it will be like the end of time to some, and a breath of fresh air to the majority of others.

It’s hard for a myopic person to see the world around themselves and understand there is a bigger and broader world of people who think dogmatically like they do. Although, for those on the hard left-side to believe everyone sees the world as they do, will also come a rude awakening when single-party rule comes back into play. The more middle-of-the-road voices will gain greater power and the internal tensions of urban legislators against suburban, ex-urban and those representing regional centers will come to the fore.

Trump Polling Numbers in Key States Falter

National and Minnesota Report Yesterday, articles in the New York Times and the Washington Post spelled good news for the former Vice-President Joe Biden’s campaign (D). https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/25/upshot/poll-2020-biden-battlegrounds.html...

Senate Bonding Then and Now (2018 v 2020)

Minnesota Report Two years ago, the Republican controlled State Senate brought forward it’s Capitol Investment Bill, which failed to pass on a party line vote of 34-33, seven votes short of the 2/3rds majority of 41 votes. What is interesting I what the Republicans...

Minnesota Department of Health COVID-19 Page

Minnesota Report On Friday, Governor Tim Walz (DFL-MN) along with Commissioner Jan Malcolm released the State of Minnesota’s comprehensive COVID-19 page on the Department of Health’s Website. Additionally, the MN House also has a page which provides more and...

Trump’s Continued Call for Hydroxychloroquine

National Report In spite of not having scientific support for his position Donald J Trump (R) continues to put forward his contention that the use of Hydroxychloroquine a drug for Malaria and Lupus and Erythromycin a drug for bacterial infections as a panacea to the...

Walz Executive Orders During Pandemic

Minnesota Report As we are in the midst of the second week of the Stay at Home Executive Order 20-20 more orders are coming from Governor Tim Walz (DFL-MN) to stipulate what options are available to our state’s citizens. Today, Executive Order 20-25 Authorizing Peace...

The Coming of the Four Horsemen

If you want to be memorable in Minnesota State Capitol politics it is good if you are referred to as something other than your name. It is often helpful when a term or a phrase can be applied to your, group, issue or initiative. If you want to be known as something...

NPR Censors Opposition Comments on RCV

The NPR show 1A ran a program on Ranked Choice Voting today, and Checks & Balances Publisher Shawn Towle sought a spot on the panel. When called back by producer Andi McDaniel he was informed the panel was full but could submit a comment through the voicemail...

Legislative Return/Special Session 2020

Minnesota Report We are hearing the legislature will likely be recalled for Special Session June 12th, which is just before Governor Tim Walz’ (DFL-MN) last peacetime emergency declaration is set to expire. In order to declare another one, he will need to receive...

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Alcohol From Restaurant to You

Minnesota Report  The House and the Senate have agreed to allow alcohol sales to be purchased from restaurants, during the COVID-19 crisis, but only beer and wine. The problem with this is with liquor stores still open the cost will be higher without an added benefit,...

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Caution is the Best Medicine

Minnesota Report As Donald J Trump (R) continues to discuss his preparation and planning, combined with his pressure to open up the United States for business again on May 1st, he does so in a potential conflict with the state’s governors. Here in Minnesota, he will...

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What to Expect from the Legislature Today?

Minnesota Report The agenda for the legislature is limited and focused on issues surrounding the COVID-19 Virus and there are a number of ways it is adversely affecting our state. A view of the times for consideration by the House Rules and Legislative Administration...

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