FREE SPEECH ZONE | Voter Rights: 1965 and 2012


On the evening of Saturday November 3rd, an enthusiastic mix of Somali-American citizens and DFL Senate District 48 regulars gathered at the Eden Prairie Community center.  Educational reform activist Ahmed Jama, Anisa Hashi, Mohmed Farah, former school board chair Kim Ross and I had begun planning the get-out-the-vote event in early September.

Our superb slate of moderate, legislative candidates Laurie McKendry, Tori Hill and Yvonne Selcer were joined by Congressional candidate Brian Barnes, Congressman Keith Ellison and Senator Amy Klobuchar spokesman Siad Ali.  If those Congressional District 3 voters who choose Amy and Barack hang in there for Brian Barnes, he will win a surprise victory against right wing incumbent  Eric Paulsen.

Each speaker urgently reminded the gathering of the importance to vote NO on the voter photo ID amendment.  I was swept up by a quiet, internal storm of nostalgia.

I spent the summer of 1965 with some 800 hundred other college students working on an educational program for undernourished school systms.  The program was administered through (then) Tuskegee Institute. Greater numbers of activissts were concurrently registering new voters throughout Alabama and the rest of the south at a time when the Ku Klux Klan was quite active, when folks were prevented from voting because they could not read or couldn’t afford to pay a poll tax. 1965 is also the year the federal Voters Rights Bill was passed.

So, Saturday night, 47 years later in Eden Prairie, one of the nation’s premier suburbs; one that regularly ranks among Minnesota’s highestt voter turn out cities and the place I’ve called home for 18 years.   And we’re at this meeting defending the precepts and spirit of the Voters Rights Act of 1965 from attack via proposed constitutional amendment.  The new Somali-American citizens at our rally understand what is afoot, if not all the nuances of the American struggle.  They will vote NO.

If you can not talk with some of your colleagues who think this amendment will be good, send them to Minnesota State Representative Steve Simon’s take on the aamendment.   Mr. Simon provided the most concise and plain speaking argument against the voter ID amendment that I know.  I have posted this link to this particular Democratic Visions segment before, but at this time, with the vote just hours away, a refresher has high merit.


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