Voter ID, marriage amendment opponents outraising supporters

Volunteers working the phones
Volunteers work at phone banking stations at the Minnesota for Marriage campaign office in Minneapolis, Minn. Thursday, Sept. 13, 2012.
MPR Photo/Jeffrey Thompson

If dollars equaled votes, it would seem that separate campaigns to defeat two proposed constitutional amendments on this fall's ballot would be winning by a landslide.

Both Minnesotans United for All Families, the group working to defeat a constitutional amendment that would effectively ban same-sex marriage here, and Our Vote Our Future, a group working against a requirement that all voters show photo identification at the polls, have outraised their competition by hundreds of thousands of dollars, according to updated reports to the state campaign finance board released Wednesday.

Yet less than five weeks before Election Day, recent polls show both amendments are on track to pass.

MARRIAGE AMENDMENT

Minnesotans United for All Families has raised nearly $2.7 million since they filed their last finance report in July. All told, the group that opposes the amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman has raised $8.2 million from 44,000 individual donors. Some of the group's largest contributions have come from the Alliance for a Better Minnesota, which has given $182,000 to date. But most donations are from individuals and in small amounts. Recently, some of that money has been put toward television ads.

Meanwhile, Minnesota for Marriage, the main group working in favor of the amendment, has raised a total of $2 million since last year, most of it coming from area churches and other organizations that support the amendment. Since July, Minnesota for Marriage has brought in nearly $569,531, nearly doubling its entire fundraising for 2012. The cash has allowed the group to put up billboards throughout the state.

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Let Your Friends Know
Jill Mueller, left, of Lakefield, and Liz Ehlinger, right, of Minneapolis, practice talking about the proposed marriage amendment and how to defeat it Monday, Sept. 10, 2012 during a "Let Your Friends Know" workshop sponsored by Minnesotans United for All Families.
MPR Photo/Jennifer Simonson

Kate Brickman, spokesperson for Minnesotans United for All Families, said her group's numbers show ever-growing energy among Minnesota voters to defeat the amendment. Nearly all those donations have arrived from people in the state, Brickman pointed out.

Marriage amendment opponents in other states, such as North Carolina, have experienced a similar fundraising trend only to be disappointed on Election Day. But Jeremy Kennedy, who led the opposition to North Carolina's marriage amendment, said Minnesotans United for All Families fundraising statistics show strength.

"That shows that they've gotten the people in their state invested not only as donors, but that also shows a great volunteer capacity, too," Kennedy said.

Brickman acknowledged that dollars don't necessarily translate to votes.

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"We know that in the past, states have outspent the opponents and still lost," Brickman said. "But what I think it shows for us is these are people aren't just donating, these people are taking action in addition to that. In addition to donating to money to us, those people are also getting involved in volunteering and having conversations with their family and friends."

Not included in the latest report is the roughly $350,000 the group raised this last weekend during a series of house parties across the state.

Minnesota for Marriage spokeswoman Autumn Leva said her group isn't too concerned about the opposition's fundraising because they've doubled their annual total in just a couple of months. It shows amendment supporters are taking a more public role in the debate, Leva said. While Minnesotans United for All Families is advertising its widespread financial support throughout the state as a sign of the campaign's strength, Leva points out that Minnesota for Marriage always knew it would be the underdog in this fight.

"We predicted over a year ago that we would be outspent about 3-or-4 to 1," Leva said. "The marriage amendment has passed in 31 out of 31 states and it was usually outspent in those other states as well."

Polling remains in their favor, Leva pointed out.

VOTER ID

Groups working on both sides of the amendment that would require voters to show photo identification at the polls have not raised nearly as much cash as organizations working on the marriage amendment.

Rally against voter ID
About 200 people marched through South Minneapolis on Sunday, Aug. 26, 2012, in opposition of a proposed constitutional amendment that would require voters to show a photo ID at the polls.
MPR Photo/Conrad Wilson

Yet Our Vote Our Future, the group working against the amendment, has outraised its primary opponent, ProtectMyVote.com.

Since July, Our Vote Our Future has brought in an additional $400,000. That brings the group's total to nearly $600,000 since the start of its campaign, with a little less than half of it coming from in-kind contributions, such as staff time, from groups that support the cause.

Eric Fought, spokesman for Our Vote Our Future, said the group has started fundraising in earnest in recent weeks, which may account for a $75,000 contribution from well-known liberal donor Alida Messinger.

He also said that the group's message is starting to resonate with voters that may not have been paying as much attention previously.

"As we're talking to voters throughout the state, they are beginning to realize that this not a matter of simply presenting a photo ID at the ballot box," Fought said. "This is a complete overhaul of the election system."

Caucus straw polls
Henry Stachyra Jr. waits for caucus participants at Rutherford Elementary School in Stillwater, Minn. Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2012. A voter identification scanning systems was being tested at the Stillwater site.
MPR Photo/Jeffrey Thompson

ProtectMyVote.com, which backs the amendment, has raised about $95,000 since the last filing deadline, for a total of $230,000 this year.

"The cadre of special interest groups funding the opposition have deeper pockets than our individual donors," wrote Dan McGrath, who's leading the effort. "We expected to be out-spent from the beginning and our campaign is on course."

The group has about $33,000 in the bank compared to Our Vote Our Future's more than $250,000.

But the voter ID proponents have been the first to hit the airwaves, launching a TV ad this week. They've also been spending their money on web advertising, signs, bumper stickers and polling, while it appears that Our Vote Our Future has focused its spending on voter outreach and phone-banking.