Election Notebook: Presidential Candidate Takes Sides On Marriage Amendment

The Libertarian Party presidential candidate opposes a proposed Minnesota constitutional amendment that would ban gay marriage.

“While different faiths may choose not to perform or recognize same-sex marriage, the government has no business deciding who should be allowed to marry,” said Gary Johnson, a former New Mexico governor who spent part of his youth in Minot, N.D.

Johnson said that as a former governor he strongly favors states’ rights, but “the states have no right to discriminate. I do not agree with President Obama that the federal government should defer to states, allowing them to choose to deny their residents the equal right to marry.”

The marriage amendment is the most-discussed issue in this year’s Minnesota campaigns and both sides are buying television commercials that probably will make the campaign one of Minnesota’s most expensive ever.

Amendment surprises?
Minnesota voters need to do a bit of research to know what constitutional amendments really say, Secretary of State Mark Ritchie says.

“As I visit with Minnesotans across the state, many are surprised to learn that they never get to see the actual language of the two proposed changes to our state’s Constitution on their ballot,” he said. “This seems odd to many voters given the importance of the Constitution as our state’s highest law, but that is our current procedure.”

Summaries of the amendment appear on ballots. Although the ballot language to define marriage as only between a man and a woman is similar to the full amendment, another amendment to require voters to show photos IDs has quite a bit of language not on the ballot.

Ritchie opposes the voter ID amendment and Republicans who support the proposal accuse him of posting one-sided and inaccurate information about it at www.mnvotes.org. Ritchie is the state’s top elections official.

Close races
It’s Minnesota just before an election, so it’s time to start thinking recounts.

And some races do appear close, if the polls can be believed.

Among the close ones is a proposed constitutional amendment that would ban gay marriage. Both sides are pushing hard and polls show it to be very close.

A SurveyUSA-KSTP poll indicates 47 percent favor the amendment, but 50 percent is needed to pass.

Another proposed amendment, to require voters to show photo IDs, is getting closer, polls show, but those who favor it still lead.

Making the amendments tough to predict is the requirement that half of votes cast in an election are needed to pass one, not just half of votes cast for or against an amendment.

For candidates, whoever gets the most votes wins, but a different system is used for amendments, and it makes passing one harder.

The closest candidate race is in the 8th Congressional District, covering northeastern and north-central Minnesota south as far as the northern Twin Cities suburbs. Republican U.S. Rep. Chip Cravaack and Democratic challenger Rick Nolan, a former congressman, appear to be tied.

Hunter votes
With Minnesota’s deer hunting season set to begin Saturday, Nov. 3, hunters who expect to still be out on the next Tuesday may want to consider casting absentee ballots.
“Hunters who will be in deer camp and not in a voting booth on Nov. 6 still have time to exercise their right to vote by voting absentee,” Secretary of State Mark Ritchie said.
Absentee ballots can be cast in person at local elections offices, often the county auditor’s office. They also may be obtained and returned by mail.