Beneath arguments, amendment battles foretell bad politics

This week the Duluth News Tribune endorsed a “no” vote on both of Minnesota’s upcoming proposed constitutional amendments — one forbidding gay marriage and another requiring a photographic ID to vote. And while this also happens to be my view, the DNT’s argument raises an important point in these debates. Legislating by biennial ballot initiatives is a Pandora’s box of wasted time and political cowardice.

Voting procedures, in particular, reflect public policy best handled by the legislature. All other aspects of how voting works are governed by the three traditional branches of government.

If these amendments pass, a future DFL legislature will surely seek to repeal them in a similar fashion. And will they stop there? What laundry list of political issues might seem a tempting constitutional pursuit to a future political bloc unwilling to work with some future governor? The list is endless. This is no way to handle day-to-day governance.

Constitutional amendments traditionally extend rights. Any amendments that seek to restrict rights have, without exception, turned out badly — or at least into long term political brinksmanship that failed to improve the lives of the governed.

That’s not the only reason to oppose these amendments. And I further understand there are arguments in favor of the amendments that might well deserve hearing in the proper legislative channels. But we live in a constitutional republic. When we throw up our hands and decide that the legislature cannot do anything, citizens lose in the long run. Always.


  1. Presumably then you took a stand against the Legacy Amendment, which was a cash cow for public radio. The two on the ballot this year are more matters of basic principle than that dog’s breakfast was.

  2. I voted against the legacy amendment. Now, don’t get me wrong I strongly support public funding for the arts and outdoors. But I would have rather seen that handled as a matter of legislative allocation. I understand there are principles behind these amendments, too, but the way they were foisted upon the ballot with the majority barely defending them in flood debate is a bad precedent.

  3. That should read “floor” debate.

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