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No Place for Discriminatory Laws.

One of the most frustrating parts of this legislative session for many folks is when bills come up where they don’t really serve any purpose, except to discriminate against certain groups in Minnesota. I’m thinking in particular of Voter ID and the English-only bills introduced already in the legislature.

The bill to make English the official language of Minnesota would mean that all government communications except for public safety, criminal hearings, and schools that teach foreign languages would be in English. What does this mean? In other states that enacted similar measures, students were suspended for speaking Spanish and non-English speaking citizens were unable to vote.

Minnesota currently offers voting instructions in English, as well as Hmong, Russian, Spanish, Vietnamese and Somali. We’ve got a thriving, diverse immigrant community, and by limiting voting instructions to English this bill would disenfranchise whole communities of legal voters.

It’s the same with Voter ID. Requiring photo identification in order to vote not only disenfranchises Minnesota’s voters, but would also cost millions of dollars. We’ve got a significant budget deficit right now, which makes this bill seem even more irresponsible. Other states have gotten cost estimates on implementing such a system, and it comes down to about $20 million.

Republicans claim we need a Voter ID system to clamp down on voter fraud, conveniently forgetting that in Minnesota voter fraud is a “frivolous” concern. It simply doesn’t happen that much.

These bills combat problems that do not exist, cost millions of dollars, and discriminate against Minnesotans. They have no place in our state, where we pride ourselves on our diversity and acceptance of those who are different than us.

“This bill is inconsistent with our state’s traditions of tolerance and acceptance, those that welcome all people regardless of religion, ethnicity, or ancestry,” said Allison Lebow, spokesperson for the Minnesota Immigrant Freedom Network. “Since the arrival of European immigrants in the mid-1800s, Minnesota has become an increasingly multilingual state.”

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