An overwhelming majority of Americans, 85%, say they want fundamental election reforms. But let’s face it, doing so is hard since there will never be big money behind enacting clean election reforms. Money inevitably flows to issues where there are profits to be made. Sadly, there is no monetary gain in making our electoral system truer to America’s ideals.
But fortunately, transparency is free. We believe informing Minnesotans with clear, easy to understand information on election reform will empower them to get the reform-minded leaders they say they want.
That’s the premise of the Clean Election Reform Grades, created by the nonpartisan nonprofit organization Minnesota Citizens for Clean Elections (MnCCE). The grades reflect the positions taken by 2020 candidates for the Minnesota Senate on five core election reforms. The Senate is the focus, because in recent years that is where proposals have been ignored.
Minnesotans can simply go to www.mnelectiongrades.org, type in the Senate District where they live, and see where their Senate candidates stand on the five election reforms. It only takes a few seconds, and the information is clear with grades ranging from A to F.
Each of the five proposed reforms upon which the grades are based is critically important. First, candidates state their position on a constitutional amendment to reverse the Citizens United Supreme Court decision, which took away Congress’ power to limit campaign contributions. That amendment has already passed in 20 of the 38 states required to amend the Constitution.
Second, candidates say whether they favor listing their top three campaign contributors, including PACs and Super PACs, on their campaign materials. This would shine a light on hidden “dark money.”
Third, candidates reveal whether they support increased public financing of campaigns, which would partially offset special interest influences.
Fourth, candidates disclose their opinion on establishing an independent commission of nonpoliticians to advise the Minnesota Legislature on a fair plan for redrawing legislative district lines.
Finally, candidates give their position on a National Public Vote law, requiring Minnesota’s electoral votes to go to the presidential candidate with the most popular votes nationwide, an effort already passed by 15 states and the District of Columbia with 196 Electoral College votes. It would take effect when passed by states totaling 270 electoral votes, the number needed for an electoral college majority.
Unlimited campaign spending, dark money, special interest dominance, officeholders lacking support, and gerrymandering are doing serious damage to our nation. That’s why surveys show 85% of Americans support the Citizens United Constitutional Amendment, 75% of Minnesotans favor making presidential elections about who wins the popular vote, and two-thirds of Americans support independent nonpartisan commissions of citizens drawing district lines.
Why publicize “A” to “F” grades based on these five issues? It’s nearly impossible for individual voters to gather this kind of clear information on their own since they’d have to go out and individually interview candidates.
Better-informed voters will lead to more reform-minded legislators, resulting in cleaner elections and governing. But first, clear and concise information needs to be easily accessible to Minnesotans.
Obviously, election reforms aren’t the only issues Minnesotans should consider before they vote. But because those issues tend to be under-discussed during campaigns, Minnesotans need some extra help learning about candidates’ positions on those topics.
Unfortunately, when Minnesotans go to the Clean Election Grades, they’ll notice that many candidates receive an “F,” because they refused to disclose their positions to their constituents. That “F” grade is justified, since we won’t have clean elections as long as we have leaders who refuse to share their positions with constituents. (Note: Even after the questionnaire deadline given to candidates, MnCCE stands ready to add candidates’ positions and upgrade their grades at any time.)
So, if you’re one of the 85% of Americans from all political parties who want fundamental changes in clean elections, check out the Clean Election Grades to inform your vote. Our democracy depends on you.
The grades are available at www.mnelectiongrades.org
Tom Horner is a former Independence Party candidate for governor and chief of staff to Republican U.S. Sen. Dave Durenberger. George Beck is a former chair of the Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board, retired administrative law judge, and current chair of MnCCE. Connie Lewis served as vice president of Planned Parenthood MN ND SD and state director for Democratic U.S. Sen. Paul Wellstone.
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