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‘Effective Democracy’ series will look at ways to strengthen Minnesota system

“Democracy is a pathetic belief in the collective wisdom of individual ignorance.” —H. L. Mencken

“Democracy means that anyone can grow up to be president, and anyone who doesn’t grow up can be vice president.” — Johnny Carson

Everyone from cynic to comedian has taken a shot at some shortcoming in America’s political system but seldom suggested an improvement.

Today, though, we’re starting an occasional series of in-depth reports that will focus on a wide range of issues and ideas aimed at strengthening the political system and institutions in Minnesota and the region.

The series, “Effective Democracy,” is meant to explore problems and potential solutions.

We’re starting with James Nord’s look at the advantages and disadvantages of two popular voting variations — early-voting procedures and no-excuse absentee balloting.

Over the next year, we’ll look at everything from election enhancements, such as electronic pollbooks and ranked-choice voting, to campaign laws and finance regulations. We’ll also look at the way judges are appointed and elected.

Our effort also involves teaming up with our neighbors to the east.

MinnPost and the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism are sharing a $100,000 grant from The Joyce Foundation that in large part will support reporting on key democracy issues in our states.

This is MinnPost’s first grant from the Chicago-based Joyce Foundation, which supports the development of policies that both improve the quality of life for people in the Great Lakes region and serve as models for the rest of the country.

The Joyce Foundation’s grantmaking supports projects for a strong, thriving democracy, research into Great Lakes protection and restoration, energy efficiency, teacher quality and early reading, workforce development, gun violence prevention, and diverse art for diverse audiences. The Foundation encourages innovative and collaborative approaches with a regional focus and the potential for a national reach.

Comments (3)

  1. Submitted by George Beck on 06/17/2013 - 10:02 am.

    Campaign Finance

    I hope you will take a look at the failure of Minnesota law to require disclosure of the identity of all political campaign contributors.

  2. Submitted by Ray Lewis on 06/17/2013 - 10:46 am.

    Role of education in citizenship

    I’m looking forward to this series!

    Another potential topic is the shift from the role of education in producing citizens, not just consumers and worker bees.

    One example is Justice Sandra Day O ‘Conner’s work since retiring from the US Supreme Court.
    iCivics prepares young Americans to become knowledgeable, engaged 21st century citizens by creating free and innovative educational materials.

    In 2009, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor founded iCivics to reverse Americans’ declining civic knowledge and participation. Securing our democracy, she realized, requires teaching the next generation to understand and respect our system of governance. Today iCivics comprises not just our board and staff, but also a national leadership team of state supreme court justices, secretaries of state, and educational leaders and a network of committed volunteers. Together, we are committed to passing along our legacy of democracy to the next generation.

  3. Submitted by Art Eisbruch on 06/19/2013 - 06:55 am.

    Citizen’s Initiatve

    One thing that Minnesota is completely lacking is a Citizen’s Initiative or means whereby the citizens of Minnesota cannot petition for a referendum on issues of importance to the people. While the work of the legislature is important, sometimes it is important for the citizens to be heard more than once every couple of years, and sometimes the people of a state have important priorities that can and should be placed on the ballot independent of the legislature’s or governor’s opinion. True democracy requires it.

    Minnesota has three times tried to pass a citizen initiative/referendum, once in 1914/16 and again in 1980. Each time these measures passed on the popular vote by a wide majority, but failed due to a super-majority requirement of the state’s constitution. The votes a century ago were 3:1 and 4:1 in favor and the measure was close to passing in 1980. As it has been 30 years since the state last put this measure on the ballot I think MN could make a major step forward in democratic governance by once again placing this measure on a ballot.

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