Do your homework before voting this year

We all know Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are running, but our 2012 ballots will include candidates for city council, school, county and township boards and the soil and water conservation district as well as a long list of judge candidates.

Even experienced voters shouldn’t “wing it” this year. You need to do your homework before heading to the polls. Read the candidate questionnaires the Record will be publishing. Talk with the candidate who knocks on your door.

Don’t let candidates say, “I’m going to reduce your taxes” or anything so vague. Which taxes? Income taxes? Sales taxes? Property taxes? Make them give you details.

Many cities and the county publish sample ballots, which can be informative. Many communities will have candidate forums. Take time out of your busy fall schedule to attend and listen. Learn who’s running locally and what important matters are being discussed in your city.

You also need to prepare yourself for the two constitutional amendment questions. It is important for voters to understand that if you do not vote on an amendment question, you will be counted with the “no” votes. Our state constitution requires that a majority of the people voting in the election must approve a constitutional amendment. Thus, a “no” vote and a blank ballot will both count on the “no” side.

One amendment will ask voters whether or not Minnesotans should be required to have a photo identification to vote and make other voting procedural changes. The question reads: “Shall the Minnesota Constitution be amended to require all voters to present valid photo identification to vote and to require the state to provide free identification to eligible voters, effective July 1, 2013?”

Proponents argue that requiring identification will cut down on voter fraud. We need IDs for everything else, why would presenting an ID to vote cause a problem, they ask.

Others argue that this will discriminate against the poor and elderly. Some individuals cannot obtain official photo IDs because they do not possess birth certificates or other required documentation.

The other amendment question reads: “Shall the Minnesota Constitution be amended to provide that only a union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as marriage in Minnesota?”

If passed, that language will be added. If the amendment fails, it does not mean that gay marriage would suddenly be allowed in Minnesota. Same-sex marriage is not legally recognized in Minnesota. Legislative action would be required before same sex marriage would be permitted, unless a judge rules current law unconstitutional.

We appreciate that this topic is passionate and personal. Many of our churches have taken stands. So have city councils and corporations. This decision challenges both our minds and our hearts, as we each decide what we believe is right for us and for our state.

We encourage all voters to read extensively, engage your neighbors in conversation and listen to the leaders of your faith community.

Over the next few weeks, we will be presenting endorsement editorials on the amendments and the top congressional offices. The ECM Editorial Board has been researching the issues and meeting the candidates in person. After research and deliberation, the board members voted on the stances that will be presented in these editorials.

Our intent is to encourage you to think, so that you will make careful and intelligent choices when you enter the voting booth Tuesday, Nov. 6.

This editorial is a product of the ECM Editorial Board.