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In Minnesota, two state amendments did not receive approval, and along with winning back the presidency, Democrats were able to take a big step in the Minnesota State Senate and House.
For the past two years, the Minnesota State Legislature has been under the control of the Republican Party. This year, the Democratic Farmer Laborers (DFL) was able to win enough elections that they now have majority control.
Roger Erickson, a Minnesota State Representative from District 2A, decided to run in this election partially due to the fact that he saw a lack of Democratic representation in the Minnesota Legislature. He hopes to bring better representation to the Lake of the Woods area and bring funding in the direction of schools.
Erickson joins the Minnesota State House as one of 73 Democratic Representatives who will be working with 61 Republican Representatives. Similar numbers are seen in the State Senate, with 39 Democratic Minnesota Senators and 28 Republican.
Along with party success seen across the nation, there was an increase in the amount of women elected this year. Minnesota followed suit ever so slightly. Last year there were 64 female legislators total in Minnesota, and this year, there are 66, having added one more woman to both the State House and State Senate.
Redistricting, or redrawing of districts, was another factor in the state elections this year. Districts are redrawn every 10 years, following a census, to make sure that they have nearly equal populations. For this 2012 election, when district lines were moved, incumbents moved to new territory and in some cases, the same territory. John Carlson and Tom Saxhaug ran for the Minnesota Senate District 5 seat, and both had previously held positions in the State Senate. Carlson was previously the Senator from what had been District 4 and Saxhaug from what was District 3.
But voters were not only voting to elect officials. Minnesota voted against two statewide-proposed amendments, the Same-Sex Marriage Amendment and the Voter I.D. Amendment.
Had the Same-Sex Marriage Amendment been passed, it would have given a definition to marriage in the Minnesota State Constitution- making marriage between same-sex couples not only illegal, which it is now, but completely unrecognizable for the foreseeable future.
A conservative voter and self-described proud Christian named Leah said that she believes God instituted marriage between one man and one woman. She voted in favor of changing the constitution to reflect this. Ken Cobb, the Chairman of Beltrami County Republicans, believed that the Marriage Amendment had a good chance to pass and that passing it was, “common sense.”
But Minnesotans cast enough votes to defeat this amendment to the constitution.
John Persell, a Democratic Minnesota State Representative, however, believes that marriage should not be dictated by the constitution, regardless of its roots in religion. He believes the separation of church and state is very important to ensure the rights of all, and had the amendment been passed, people would have been affected for the wrong reasons.
Cathy Peck, an elderly woman from Bemidji, believes that, “You don’t really get involved [in same sex-marriage issues] until you get a kick in the pants.” Cathy and her husband Wally felt very strongly about the marriage amendment not passing because their daughter has come out to them as a lesbian. Their daughter and her partner were married in Iowa, but live in Wisconsin where same-sex marriage is not recognized.
“It was the greatest blessing of our lives, for her to be a lesbian. We’ve just met so many wonderful people.” says Cathy. Had this amendment passed, it would have hurt personal friends of the couple and it would have been discouraging to the Gay Lesbian Bisexual Trans community, even in a place as small as Bemidji. Wally said, “You have to be who you are… and everyone needs to feel those emotions of safety through marriage.”
The Voter I.D. Amendment also did not see approval. If it had, Minnesotans would have been required to have a state issued I.D. to vote, a challenge for lower class Americans who don’t have the money for an I.D. or are non-mobile. Native Americans in the Bemidji area were nervous for the decision of whether or not this would become required.
“This would just be a way to get poor people to jump through more hoops and discourage voting choice.” Said Carol Jenkins, a Native American from the Bemidji area. Already, Native Americans saw their absentee ballots being lost in the mail before getting to them and if they were able get to the polls; Tribal IDs were not accepted as a form of identification.
Lisa Boulay is the Beltrami county DFL Secretary and she said she was very pleased with the results of the election and voting on amendments. She believes Obama will only be able to have a better second term with the cooperation of the Federal and State Legislatures. “Teamwork,” she said. The election yielded high numbers of Democrats being sent to both the State House and Senate in Minnesota and all of the Senators and Representative from this area are democratic. John Persell, Roger Erickson, Tom Saxhaug and Rod Skoe will be representing this area.
Rita Albrecht was able to beat Dave Larson in the race for Bemidji Mayor by 600 votes at a time when politicians in this area will be held even more accountable to their voters. The Recall Amendment, pushed through by the City Charter, was passed. This gives voters a chance to petition to get politicians and city representatives out of office if they are not doing their jobs.
Also held up to high standards will be three City Councilmen who won their elections. Ron Johnson was running only against Write-In opponents and won his seat with no problems. Nancy Erickson, who had held a Council Seat at one point, beat the incumbent last night for her Ward 5 spot on the City Council.
Michael Meehlhause, a recent graduate of Bemidji State University (BSU), was able to win his first political position as Ward 1 City Councilman. Though he doesn’t see himself as a politician, he says he is interested in giving back to the city of Bemidji, and specifically working with BSU to keep communication open between City Council and the University. He says that this new Recall Amendment will only push politicians in the area to do well by the people who voted them into their positions.
At the DFL headquarters in Bemidji, cheers were nearly all to be seen and heard all night. An old woman who depends on a cane to walk jumped to her feet when key states were won for the Democrats. This 2012 election year, the state of Minnesota was one of the first to not pass a Same-Sex Marriage Amendment and the DFL was able to take back control of the State Legislature.