Do your homework before voting

Your election clerk is busy creating a long and detailed ballot for you.

We all know Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are running, but who are all those other candidates for President?

Our 2012 ballots will include candidates for city council, school board and the ubiquitous soil and water conservation district. Your ballot will probably have parks board, county board and a few other boards you’ve never even heard of. Then comes that long list of judge candidates.

Even experienced voters shouldn’t “wing it” this year. You need to do your homework before going heading to the polls. Read the Voters Guides our newspapers will be publishing. Talk with the candidate who knocks on your door. Don’t let candidates say, “I’m going to reduce your taxes” or anything so vague. Which taxes? Income taxes? Sales taxes? Property taxes? Pin them down and make them give you details.

Many cities and counties publish sample ballots in our newspapers, and include them on their websites. These can be very informative. Many communities will have voters forums or debates. Take time out of your busy fall schedule to attend and listen. Learn who’s running locally and what important matters are being discussed in your city.

You also need to prepare yourself for the two constitutional amendment questions, which will be included somewhere in those many pages of ballot.

It is very important for voters to understand that if you do not vote on either amendment question, you will be counted with the “no” votes. Our state constitution requires that a majority of the people voting in the election must approve a constitutional amendment. Therefore a no vote and a blank ballot will both count on the “no” side.

One amendment will ask voters whether or not Minnesotans should be required to have a photo identification to vote and make other voting procedural changes. The question reads: “Shall the Minnesota Constitution be amended to require all voters to present valid photo identification to vote and to require the state to provide free identification to eligible voters, effective July 1, 2013?”

Proponents argue that requiring identification will cut down on voter fraud. We need IDs for everything else, why would presenting an ID to vote cause a problem, they ask.

Others argue that this will discriminate against the poor and elderly. Some of those individuals cannot obtain official photo IDs because they do not possess birth certificates or other required documentation.

It is the other amendment that is generating the most attention and emotion. The question reads: “Shall the Minnesota Constitution be amended to provide that only a union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as marriage in Minnesota?”

If passed, that language will be added to our constitution. If the amendment fails, it does not mean that gay marriage would suddenly be allowed in Minnesota. Same-sex marriage is not legally recognized in Minnesota. Legislative action would be required before same sex marriage would be permitted, or unless a judge rules current law unconstitutional.

Some voters are confused as to what yes means and what no means. Yes means, add this to language to the Constitution. A no vote means, do not add the statement to the constitution.

We appreciate that this topic is passionate and personal. Many of our churches have taken stands. So have city councils and corporations. This decision challenges both our minds and our hearts, as we each decide what we believe is right for us and for our state.

We encourage all voters to read extensively, engage your neighbors in conversation, and listen to the leaders of your faith community.

Over the next few weeks, we will be presenting endorsement editorials on the amendments and the top federal offices. The ECM Editorial Board has been researching the issues and meeting the candidates in person. After research and deliberation, the board members have voted on the stances that will be presented in these editorials.

Our intent is to encourage you to think, so that you will make careful and intelligent choices when you enter the voting booth Tuesday, Nov. 6.

–This is a product of the ECM Editorial Board.