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Pioneer Editorial: Constitutional amendments wrong way to legislate

Constitutions are all about the structuring of government; they offer overall guiding principles and framework to help make sure our rulers don’t trample on our personal rights and liberties. They’re big-picture documents.

Minnesota voters on Nov. 6 should be careful with the state’s constitution. They can vote “no” on a pair of ballot questions that aren’t as constitutional as they are legislative, as they are matters more appropriate for our lawmakers’ careful deliberations and decisions.

Changes to the constitution should be rare and under special circumstances. They’ve been made that way since Minnesota’s constitution was adopted in 1857.

Neither the marriage amendment nor the voter ID amendment rise to the level of constitutional consideration.

Both scream for more conversation at the Legislature, not quick and uninformed passage by voters in next month’s election.

To some, requiring picture identification at polling places is a way to protect the integrity of elections. Election fraud is nearly nonexistent. Most cases of election fraud – which is rare in Minnesota – have to do with ineligible voters casting ballots, primarily after losing their right to do so because of legal troubles.

The current amendment proposal is rife with unanswered questions about potentially astronomical costs, just what sort of fraud would be addressed and more.

To others, ID requirements restrict voting, especially among elderly, minority, low-income and student populations, where IDs aren’t as common or where obtaining the paperwork to get an ID can be financially or logistically difficult. Such barriers can be removed but aren’t addressed in the current amendment proposal.

As for the marriage amendment, it too fails to meet the threshold for constitutional inclusion. Same-sex marriage already is against the law in Minnesota. Why add it to the constitution? Would that just end the conversation? It seems a conversation that should be just beginning. Like many in Minnesota, Forum Communications Co. does not favor same-sex marriage. But that doesn’t mean disapproval belongs in our constitution.

Minnesota’s constitution demands respect and reverence for the important document it is. Misusing it to pass laws when appropriate channels prove unsuccessful cheapens it. And who in Minnesota wouldn’t vote “no” to that?

Editor’s note: The Duluth News Tribune, a Forum Communications Co. newspaper, contributed to the content of this editorial. The Bemidji Pioneer and the News Tribune are owned by Forum Communications Co.