Ritchie speaks about fair elections in Grand Rapids

Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie spoke to the annual Itasca Community College Civil Liberties Conference on Wednesday, April 8, about the importance of free and fair elections. Several area residents and college students attended the day long conference which explored freedom, social, privacy, and justice issues.

Ritchie’s appearance came just a day after a three-judge panel had finished counting the final allowable absentee ballots in Minnesota’s widely observed U.S. Senate race between Norm Coleman and Al Franken. Though an appeals process continues, objective observers have credited Ritchie’s office with a thorough and transparent handling of the state mandated recount. Politics in Minnesota named Ritchie their “Politician of the Year” after the initial recount was handled smoothly.

At the civil liberties conference, Ritchie told the story of asking community members on the Red Lake reservation why their voter turnout exceeded 90 percent, far above the state average and the average seen on other reservations. After a pause, a young woman told him that they were patriotic, loved their home, and so they voted. The large crowd nodded in unison. Ritchie later met with a chamber of commerce president in Hermantown, an affluent Duluth suburb, and asked the same question. He got the same answer. Ritchie stressed that making voting an inherent part of loving and supporting a community is the key to better policy in the future. He further congratulated Itasca County and all of northern Minnesota for its extraordinarily high voter turnout. Free and fair elections, Ritchie said, are how the voice of the people can be recorded.

Ritchie took questions after the event, saying that the U.S. Senate recount process was over and now patience is needed as the appeals take place. Later, the Itasca County DFL hosted a public reception for Ritchie in which he also answered questions. More than 40 people attended that event.

The Itasca DFL is co-sponsoring an event organized by the DFL Progressive Caucus called the “We Are Change” Progressive Forum. That event takes place at Itasca Community College from 1-9 p.m. on Friday, April 17. The event features a variety of sessions on issues from health care to social justice and is open to the public. Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer and State Sen. John Marty are scheduled speakers. The Itasca DFL also maintains open office hours for those interested in discussing issues or finding out more about the party. The office, located at 809 NE 4th St (along Hwy. 169) in Grand Rapids, is open from noon to 5 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Note: This was written to also serve as a press release for the Itasca DFL. For some reason, we couldn’t get any media out to hear what Mark Ritchie had to say a day after the vote counting was officially concluded.

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