Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Minnesotans For More Truth in Elections

As reported in an editorial by Doug Meslow and Susan Gaertner in the St. Paul Pioneer Press, on July 1, a law became effective in Minnesota which improves and expedites the way in which elections complaints are handled.

Under Minnesota's former system, complaints about the truthfulness of election ads or endorsements or a candidate's campaign finances all went through the county attorney's office. As county attorneys are generally busy folks with many cases to juggle, they often did not get around to dealing with elections complaints until well after the election, if at all.

The new law changes this, directing election complaints instead to the Office of Administrative Hearings, which must make a preliminary ruling on a complaint within three business days of receiving it for those complaints received close to elections. If the judge finds enough evidence of a violation at the preliminary hearing, it sets in course an expedited schedule for dealing with the complaint. If not, the judge will dismiss the complaint and the candidate or organization against which the complaint was directed is cleared. Either way, the voters win.

One way to judge how our democracy is doing is to look at the accuracy and effectiveness of the information voters have when they go to the polls. If one side is playing underhanded, either through evading or breaking campaign finance laws or through false advertising, voters should know about it and have the opportunity to incorporate that information into their decision at the ballot box.

Kudos to Minnesota for its efforts in making democracy work better for the people. (See yesterday's post here for an example of how inadequate our current system at the national level is for dealing with similar complaints.)

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