On Dan Severson, rape kits and the Minnesota Secretary of State’s duties


The Albert Lea Tribune has endorsed incumbent Secretary of State Mark Ritchie for election:

. . .But here is why we favor Ritchie: Minnesota went through the most expensive U.S. Senate election in our nation’s history and it had a long, drawn-out recount battle. We didn’t come out looking sloppy and partisan like Florida or even Ohio. Ritchie, a Democrat, even was commended by Republican Norm Coleman’s lawyers, who articulated that the recount was fair.

Four years ago, Ritchie told this Editorial Board that the parties were intended for the purpose of elections and otherwise he would operate in a nonpartisan fashion, like the secretaries of state did through much of the 20th century. He wanted to return to that model of classy, respectable governance.

Ritchie upheld his campaign promise to us in more ways than just the recount battle. He has cleansed his office of political appointees and hired civil servants recruited from elections institutions statewide. He has torn down barriers to military voting, so much so that the Pentagon now holds Minnesota as an example.

The list of positive reforms go on – such as his push to change the date of the primary election – but to save readers time, know this:

Fill in the oval for Mark Ritchie when you fill out your ballot.

The entire endorsement isn’t just a love fest for Ritchie. The paper reviews Republican Dan Severson’s proposals for election “integrity” and finds them wanting. Go read the whole thing.

While conducting fair elections is one duty of the secretary of state, it isn’t the only one–and two thoroughly researched posts by Minnesota bloggers connect the dots between an item in Severson’s extremist and misogynist legislative agenda and the duties of the office to which he aspires.

In So sorry about that rape, but here’s your bill at Cucking Stool, MNObserver looks at one of Severson’s bills:

It was the first bill Rep. Severson introduced in the 2009-2010 session, and it would require those sexual assault victims not yet ready to fully “cooperate” with law enforcement to pay for half the cost of their own evidence gathering kits:

If the victim refuses to substantiate the assault and file a report with a law enforcement agency, the counties are liable for only 50 percent of the total costs of the examination as described under paragraph (a).

Although the bill never went anywhere and died a well-deserved death, questions remain for the man who authored the bill. Representative Severson, do you really believe that rape victims should be billed for the costs of investigating the crimes committed against them? Do you believe that a victim who is too traumatized to “cooperate” with law enforcement should forfeit the right to have the crime fully investigated? Do you really think that a rape victim who is in an abusive family situation and fears further violence doesn’t deserve law enforcement services unless she pays money for them? What other federal laws designed to help victims of criminal acts would you have the State of Minnesota ignore? Or do you think rape is somehow different from other crimes?

Like MNObserver, Robin Marty at RH Reality Check demonstrates why understanding the rights of victims of sexual matter for the office of Secretary of State. In Election 2010: Minnesota Candidate Thinks Rape Victims Should Pay Rape Kit Costs, Marty writes:

Why does this even matter anymore?

Because the Minnesota Secretary of State’s office, beyond all of the other duties, also oversees the Safe at Home Program, a special service offered to victims of abuse and others who may have a need to conceal their addresses to avoid physical or emotional harm.

Safe at Home is a program offered by the Secretary of State’s office in collaboration with local victim service providers. This program became effective September 1, 2007 and is designed to help survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, or others who fear for their safety establish a confidential address.

The intent of Safe at Home is to allow its participants to go about their lives, interacting with public and private entities, without leaving traces of where they really live in an attempt to keep their abuser from locating them.

In its three years of service, the Safe at Home program has assisted over 800 women in the state begin recovering from abuse, assault or stalking by providing them with the support to not leave a paper trail for a former attacker to track them with. How long after winning would it take Severson, a man who believes that women should be required to pay a portion of their own rape kits after being sexually assaulted, to ask women to pay for their own annonymity via the Safe at Home program.  Or, even worse, for him to eliminate it all together in the name of “fiscal responsibility?”

There’s a growing sense that those who believe that women should be required to shoulder a portion of their own costs for investigating a sexual assault do so because they believe women shoulder part of the blame for having been assaulted.  To cloak their “blame the victim” mentality, they instead find a way to punish them, stating that they are simply trying to eliminate excess government costs.

On the federal level, Minnesota Senator Al Franken has been working hard to ensure that laws are changed to mandate all women are free from obligation to pay for any part of their rape kits, regardless of the circumstances surrounding their attacks or subsequent police action. Meanwhile, locally we find a candidate who finds no issues with asking a woman to put out her own money after being sexually attacked.  And that candidate could potentially be in charge of a program meant to protect victims of stalking, assault and domestic violence.

Enough said. Ritchie has done a great job and should be re-elected. Dan Severson should stay home and watch re-runs of Law and Order SVU.