This morning I stood at the Capitol with TakeAction Minnesota Executive Director Dan McGrath to draw the line between the 1% and conservative-introduced amendments that would make a photo ID a requirement to vote. Taking a line from Dan’s comments – “the elderly, college students, the working poor and people of color – are those who will disproportionately suffer the most under a photo ID amendment.
I became involved with TakeAction Minnesota because I knew they had been working for more than 8 years to protect and expand voting participation in Minnesota. Over the years, our work has been about removing barriers to voting and ensuring poll access for all law abiding voters.
TakeAction Minnesota believes that the more voices there are in the decision-making process of our government, the stronger our democracy is in meeting all the needs of ALL of our citizens.
I oppose the photo ID amendment. I oppose it because I do not want to go back to the time of my great grandparents in Virginia who were denied the right to vote. I do not want to live the life of my grandparents who would tell me stories of the subtle barriers and hardships they faced in Connecticut and New York, when all they wanted to do was have a voice in our country’s business. Often times, the ONLY voice they had was their constitutional right to vote.
Rather, I want to think of a time when I, as a young African American kid, would go to the polls with my parents who lifted me up to pull the levers for their candidate of their choice. I even remember their many discussions about why they may have even split the ticket.
Now I know it was because they wanted to ensure the right person was placed in the office because they deserved it, not always because of party affiliation. I know they were driven by the pure satisfaction of having a say in their government which they loved, fought wars for, and paid their taxes.
I am here today because any change to our constitution, and any attack on Minnesota democracy is an attack on those same values I proudly proclaim. If I don’t, then who will? If I don’t, then how do I face the memories of my ancestors with a clear conscious? If I don’t, then who will stand up and fight for those 700,000 plus Minnesota voters who may be denied the right to vote as a result of this amendment? The trajectory of history should always be to EXPAND voting rights, not roll them back.
Gene Nichols is a member of TakeAction Minnesota’s board.