Duluth, Minn. (October 6, 2012) — Former U.S. Representative Jim Oberstar was joined by local officials, including former Saint Louis County Elections Director Paul Tynjala in a Duluth press conference this afternoon. Oberstar, who served as U.S. Representative in Minnesota’s Eighth Congressional District from 1975 until 2011, spoke out against the Voter Restriction Amendment, which will appear on the November ballot.
“The costs and consequences of this amendment for Greater Minnesota are startling,” said Oberstar. “It is clear to me that the legislature took no care in considering the impact for any communities outside of the Twin Cities. I encourage all Minnesotans to vote no and send this poorly written amendment back to Saint Paul.”
Statewide cost estimates to implement the Voter Restriction Amendment range from $50 million to $150 million. For Saint Louis County alone, the nonpartisan public advocacy organization Citizens for Election Integrity Minnesota have estimated costs of $966,000 to $2.1 million. At a time of tight budgets and decreased aid to local governments, these costs will most likely come from increased property taxes and cuts to vital services.
In Minnesota communities with populations of less than 400, a mail-in only option is currently available, saving towns and townships the costs of running polling places and other expenses of administering in-person elections. Such mail-in balloting will likely end if the Voter Restriction Amendment passes as the legislature failed to provide an exemption for these Greater Minnesota voters.
Saint Louis County has 17 mail-in only precincts and 1,344 voters from these communities voted using this method in the 2010 general election. Itasca County has 37 mail-in only precincts and 4,600 voters used mail-in balloting in 2010.
“Minnesota has the highest voter turnout in the nation because we have the most accessible elections in the country,” said former Saint Louis County Elections Direction Paul Tynjala. “For something as important as changing our constitution and our premier voting system, the legislature should have gotten it right.”
The Citizens for Election Integrity Minnesota report can be found here: http://www.ceimn.org/news/