'Vote No Twice' a grass-roots push to reject amendments on ballot

NAACP President Ben Jealous
NAACP President Ben Jealous voiced opposition to proposed amendments to the Minnesota Constitution. "There is a very active effort in this state to split the progressive coalition on this issue and to split the black community itself," Jealous said.
MPR Photo/Rupa Shenoy

Maybe you've seen some of the lawn signs urging people to "Vote No Twice" on the constitutional amendments on the ballot next week.

It turns out those signs aren't part of the organized effort to defeat the amendments. They're part of a grass-roots campaign, and the groups that are organized to defeat the amendments say they have no plan to adopt a similar ad campaign.

The woman behind the "Vote No Twice" signs explained that the idea was hatched during a meeting of her book club. Emily Shaffer, a graphic designer from Minneapolis, said the phrase was a simple way to share her feelings on the two separate and complex issues.

"I'd like to think that like-minded people are going to kind of put these two amendments in the same category," Shaffer said, "that a lot of people who feel strongly about voting no on the marriage amendment are also going to feel strongly about voting no on voter ID. So it seemed logical to put them together."

Shaffer said she is not raising money for the effort. She came up with a design, created a Facebook page and then turned to a Web-based printer that offers lawn signs, T-shirts and other items for sale on an on-demand basis. People have already purchased several hundred lawn signs.

Shaffer said she has received positive feedback from the two amendment opposition campaigns, Our Vote, Our Future and Minnesotans United for All Families. But she was also a little surprised that the groups haven't teamed up to send their own joint message.

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"I understand their communications plans are different, and they have different challenges," she said. "So they may not want to be tied to each other that way."

Representatives of both amendment opposition campaigns offered similar assessments. Kate Brickman, press secretary for Minnesotans United for All Families, said it's great to see the grass-roots organizing. But she added that her organization is laser-focused on defeating the marriage amendment.

Greta Bergstrom of the voter ID opposition campaign organization Our Vote Our Future said the two campaigns have distinctly different approaches.

"Both campaigns obviously share the sentiment of voting no, and voting no for similar reasons, in that neither of these amendments should be put into our constitution," Bergstrom said. "They take away fundamental rights from Minnesotans. But in terms of campaign strategy or in terms of campaign message, both of our campaigns obviously have to focus on defeating our respective amendment."

Dan McGrath
Dan McGrath, chairman of the pro-amendment campaign organization Protect My Vote, appears at a news conference at the state Capitol on Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2012. "The entire campaign of our opposition is based upon misinforming, misleading voters," McGrath said.
MPR News/Tim Pugmire

Other amendment opponents are eager to embrace the combined message. Benjamin Jealous, national president of the NAACP, repeated the slogan frequently during a visit to Minneapolis last week. Jealous said for him, it's a message that makes sense.

"For people who are civil rights people, for people who are human rights people," Jealous said, "they can understand that while one appears to be about one issue, one appears to be about the other, they're both about discrimination and therefore both should be opposed with similar force."

But in a campaign where voter ID supporters argue that the amendment is needed to prevent voter fraud, a slogan calling on people to vote twice could result in some confusion or misunderstanding. Dan McGrath, chairman of the pro-amendment campaign organization Protect My Vote, said he finds the "Vote No Twice" signs amusing.

"The sign is ironic, and I've kind of snickered when I've seen them, the Vote No Twice signs," McGrath said. "Clearly what they mean is vote no on both amendments. But there's a little bit of a double entendre there, isn't there?"

McGrath said he not aware on any effort by amendment supporters to link voter ID and marriage with a vote yes twice message.