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House State Government Finance and Elections Committee hears from Minnesotans about the need to defend and strengthen our democracy

Thursday, January 28, 2021

SAINT PAUL, Minn. – Today, the House State Government Finance and Elections Committee held the first hearing on legislation to defend and strengthen our democracy.

“Today, Minnesotans shared what building a strong, inclusive democracy means to them and their communities,” said Rep. Emma Greenman (DFL - Minneapolis), the author of the bill. “3.3 million voters sent me and my colleagues to the Minnesota Legislature to do the work of defending and strengthening our democracy. I am grateful to stand with all Minnesotans to do the work to build a stronger, more inclusive democracy.” 

“Minnesotans hold free and fair elections in extremely high regard, as shown by our consistent leadership in statewide voter turnout,” said Rep. Michael Nelson, chair of the House State Government Finance and Elections Committee. “Rep. Greenman’s legislation, the Democracy for the People Act, steps up during a critical time for our democracy and says that no matter your party, region, race, or age – our democracy needs to work for all Minnesotans.”

Numerous Minnesotans testified in support of the bill, including Secretary of State Steve Simon; Attorney General Keith Ellison; George Beck, Chair of Clean Elections Minnesota and former Chair of the Minnesota Campaign Finance Board; and Pastor James Albert, Higher Ground Church of God in Christ and ISAIAH’s Board. Sandy Grandmaison, League of Women Voters Duluth, and Stephanie Strossel, who both served as election judges, spoke to the need to protect voters and election officials from intimidation and harassment. Glenn Brown, Restore the Vote Coalition and ISAIAH’s Barbershop and Black Congregation Cooperative, spoke about the importance of restoring the right to vote from his perspective as a formerly incarcerated individual. 

“We need a collective understanding: among community members, organizations, agencies, elected officials, and other leaders,” said Brown. “We need to instill confidence and self-worth in people who are returning to society - to understand that there’s a place for all of us. This is powerful work. Voting is a powerful tool. And we have a lot to do to ensure we are all working together for a democracy that works for us.”

Mohamed Shaale, ISAIAH’s Muslim Caucus, shared his story of casting his first vote in the 2020 election and talked about making voting more accessible. Sean Lim, Minnesota Youth Collective, testified to the benefits of automatic voter registration and pre-registration for 16- and 17-year-olds. Mary Jo Malecha, ISAIAH, and Arline Datu spoke about reducing the influence of corporations and dark money in our politics.  

“In this last presidential election, we saw an influx of grassroots donors who felt empowered to elect leaders that represented them and their communities, but corporations funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars through many different, and often dark, channels,” said Datu. “To create a system that works for all of us, we need to expand access to voting and make it possible for peoples’ voices to count through both their vote and financial means.”

Video of the hearing will be available on House Public Information Services’ YouTube channel. Additional information is available on the House State Government Finance and Election Committee’s webpage.