There will be campaigns aplenty for the two constitutional amendments on the November ballot, but few of them will be one size fits all.
The proposed amendments – to define marriage as a union between a man and woman and to require a photo ID on Election Day – will require precision targeting of voters, many of whom are likely to split their votes on the issues.
“Absolutely that will happen,” said Dan McGrath, executive director of Minnesota Majority, the lobbying juggernaut that moved the Photo ID amendment to final passage in the Legislature. The group will campaign “strictly for the photo ID,” he said, through a new committee called Protect My Vote Dot Com.
McGrath has the wind at this back on the issue. Most polls on Voter ID show 70 to 80 percent support while support for the marriage amendment runs roughly 50-50.
“The Voter ID is universally accepted across all political boundaries, while the marriage amendment cuts along party lines,” he said.
The disparity will pose a problem for Minnesotans United for All Families, a coalition of social issue, government and political groups opposed to the marriage amendment. They will need a carefully calibrated campaign to persuade a “no” vote on the marriage amendment without linking the arguments to Voter ID and alienating vote-splitters.
Those voters could include members of the Minnesota Independence Party, according to party Chair Mark Jenkins. The IP takes no formal position on Voter ID but, as part of the Minnesotans United coalition, opposes the marriage amendment.
“We will just encourage Independent Party members to vote their preferences,” Jenkins said. “Of course, our party doesn’t have the resources to do anything of major effort.”
The Minnesota Republican Party will also have limited activism on the proposed constitutional amendments, and not just because of lack of money. An article in Politico noted that the same-sex marriage debate among Congressional Republicans “is virtually a dead issue.” The Minnesota GOP may be similarly inclined to avoid the debate.
“I can honestly say we haven’t discussed the issue,” said GOP committeewoman Pat Anderson, when asked whether the party would encourage a “yes” vote on both the marriage and Voter ID amendments.
The Minnesota DFL will likely be the only major political entity to have a simple message on the proposed amendments. “The DFL Party is strongly opposed to both,” said party Chair Ken Martin, although he acknowledged “they are not similar in any way, shape or form.”
Martin said the DFL will look at coordinating “vote no” efforts with other groups but will also have a solo effort aimed at defeating both amendments. What unites Democrats, he said, is that “both [amendments] are going to take away rights from people.”
He too expects many voters will cast split votes on the amendments. “The amendments each have their own different targets,” Martin said. The campaign against the marriage amendment must be unique to that issue, he said, while “the DFL and other interested groups will run an umbrella ‘vote no’ campaign.”
From now until Election Day, voters will have no shortage of information on the constitutional amendments. The question is whether competing or even conflicting campaigns will offer clarity or confusion.