BEMIDJI -- The Center of the American Experiment gave Bemidji locals a conservative perspective on the state of politics Thursday night, April 15.

Around 100 people attended the event, which was held at the Hampton Inn and Suites, with topics ranging from education and free-market principles to voter laws in various states. The Center of the American Experiment is a Minnesota-based think tank that advocates for conservative and free-market principles.

One of the speakers Thursday was Martha Njolomole, an economist with the American Experiment. Originally from Malawi, a nation in Africa, Njolomole talked about the economic benefits she has experienced living in the United States.

"We had a report last year where we argued that the Minnesota government should cut spending, instead of raising taxes," Njolomole said. "We write so many blogs fighting against harmful laws, like minimum wage and occupational licenses, because I know how important it is for people to produce and exchange freely and make our lives better in the process."

During his time to speak, organization President John Hinderaker discussed the current state of voter laws. According to Hinderaker, new voter laws, such as one recently passed by the Georgia government, are reasonable.

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One of the provisions in the Georgia law limits how many drop boxes each county can have, how long the drop boxes can be open and where they're located. Additionally, the law shortens the absentee voting period and requires a photo ID to vote by mail, according to the Associated Press.

John Hinderaker, president of the American Experiment, speaks on Thursday, April 15, 2021, during an event at the Hampton Inn and Suites in Bemidji. (Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer)
John Hinderaker, president of the American Experiment, speaks on Thursday, April 15, 2021, during an event at the Hampton Inn and Suites in Bemidji. (Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer)

"We polled this issue, and found that 69% of voters in Minnesota want voter ID legislation, that's a large majority, people want honest elections," Hinderaker said. "This is something we have to really fight for. One of the things we need to do in Minnesota are provisional ballots."

Provisional ballots are those that are cast when there's a question about a voter's eligibility. Those provisional ballots are then held for counting until officials are certain the vote should be accepted.

In his comments, Hinderaker said such measures are useful in preventing voter fraud. As part of the segment, Hinderaker talked about potential fraud in the 2020 election.

"When I'm asked, 'did the Democrats steal the 2020 election?' I say 'I don't know if it was stolen, but what I do know is they tried very hard to steal it,'" Hinderaker said, before criticizing election rules that nullified the need for witnesses on mail-in ballots in Minnesota.

Following the 2020 election, former President Donald Trump and his allies filed 62 lawsuits with claims of fraud, but 61 of them were dismissed, according to USA Today. Additionally, the United States Supreme Court twice refused to take up related cases.

PolitiFact found that the lawsuits were dismissed for various reasons, ranging from lack of evidence to filing errors.

In February, the MITRE Corporation, an American non-profit organization released an analysis that found "no evidence of fraud, manipulation, or uncorrected error" in eight battleground states, according to Forbes.

Attendees listen to Martha Njolomole, an economist at the American Experiment, speak on Thursday, April 15, 2021, during an event at the Hampton Inn and Suites in Bemidji. (Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer)
Attendees listen to Martha Njolomole, an economist at the American Experiment, speak on Thursday, April 15, 2021, during an event at the Hampton Inn and Suites in Bemidji. (Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer)

Another portion of Hinderaker's speech focused on education, and proposals from left-of-center advocates that the Center of the American Experiment oppose. A specific one is related to social studies standards for K-12 education in Minnesota.

Such standards, Hinderaker said, are revised about every 10 years, and this year, a committee handling the revisions has several people who are also representatives of a "radical left-wing activist group."

According to Hinderaker, early drafts include removals of criteria related to the Revolutionary War and Civil War, as well as dropping notable references to George Washington or Thomas Jefferson. Hinderaker said instead they're putting in "the left-wing agenda."

"Under these standards, our schools won't teach the Civil War, but they will teach Reconstruction from a very specific perspective on how the newly free blacks were deprived of their civil rights and how that deprivation has continued up to the present day," Hinderaker said. "So we set up a website, raiseourstandardsmn.com and laid out basic facts about what is updated with the standards."

"A light has been shined on what's going on," Hinderaker said. "It's critically important that we not teach our children to hate their country, and that is exactly what the left is trying to achieve."

Moving forward, Hinderaker said conservatives should become better at getting their message out, be willing to vote with their dollars when they disagree with a decision by a company and run for local government units.