Outreach effort explains Minneapolis elections to homeless — and the complications of ranked-choice voting

Voter-registration outreach efforts directed at often-disenfranchised communities, including the homeless, are not unusual, but this year there’s a new twist: explaining ranked-choice voting.“You pick your top three choices. You use all three. That’s really the main thing people have to know,’’ advised John Knowland recently from his perch behind a voter registration table at Catholic Charities Opportunity Center, a drop-in center for the homeless at 17th Street and Chicago Avenue in Minneapolis.With pre-voter registration finished, over the next weeks until Election Day on Nov. 5 there will be workshops and Q-and-A sessions on ranked-choice voting, Minneapolis’ new take on electing a mayor and members to the City Council, Park Board and the Board of Estimate and Taxation.But for many it seems more complicated than that. The ballot looks different for one thing, and why should they vote for all three anyway? Continue Reading

As shutdown looms, Minnesota’s low-income families face cuts in benefits

As the threat of a federal government shutdown looms, it appears that Minnesotans receiving government assistance to house, clothe and care for themselves and their families have to worry most about the benefit that puts food on the table.Community Sketchbook focuses on the economic and social challenges facing communities, especially low-income communities and communities of color, and how people are trying to address them.It is made possible by support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, The Minneapolis Foundation, and some Minneapolis Foundation donor advisors.Community Sketchbook articles may be republished or distributed, in print or online, with credit to MinnPost and the foundations.That’s the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which is appropriated annually and that unless Congress reauthorizes it is scheduled to end Oct. 1. Last year this food support program — a.k.a. food stamps — was paid to an average of 514,907 Minnesota individuals monthly. That figures out to about a quarter of a million households.And lurking in the weeds is another food assistance setback: the Nov. 1 expiration of a temporary hike to SNAP benefits mandated in the 2009 Recovery Act. Continue Reading