As if placing exclamations mark on a disastrous election day for Minnesota Republicans, voters rejected two amendments the Republican-controlled legislature placed on the ballot.
The high-profile marriage amendment, aimed at defining marriage in the state constitution as union of man and woman, with 97 percent of state precincts reporting was short of the 50 percent “Yes” level constitutional amendments generally need to pass.
Likewise, the second ballot question, photo ID, designed to require voters to show photo identification at the polls, also failed to hit the 50 percent threshold.
Not only have the two ballot questions apparently failed, but Republicans have likely lost control of the Minnesota legislature.
Republican U.S. Senate candidate Rep. Kurt Bills lost to Democratic U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar by a historically wide margin.
And Eighth Congressional District Congressman Chip Cravaack lost reelection to former Congressman Rick Nolan.
Democrats, such as Sen. Terri Bonoff, DFL-Minnetonka, warned earlier in the campaign season the marriage amendment would come back to bite Republicans in some suburban areas.
But House Speaker Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, more recently argued voters had “departmentalized” the amendments as separate to the business of selecting candidates.
The grassroots efforts surrounding the marriage amendment may have been the most intense in state history, some Democrats believe.
Minnesota United for All Families, an umbrella group for unions, churches, businesses, and others opposing the marriage amendment, put out some 45,000 “Vote No” signs and raised more than $11 million, according to media reports.
Emails to supporters flowed out of the group almost daily.
A recent SurveyUSA tracking poll showed the “No” vote on the marriage amendment at 48 percent — within the margin of error, but a point ahead of the “Yes” vote.
Pro marriage amendment Minnesota for Marriage, a coalition including many religious groups, evangelical, Catholic, others, insisted months ago their polling showed the amendment with substantial leads.
They pointed to regions like the Democratic-leaning Iron Range as a fertile area of support for the amendment.
Minnesota for Marriage expected to be outspent and was.
Media reports have the group bringing in just under $4 million in contributions.
The proposed amendments have been percolating at the State Capitol for years, former Republican state senator Michele Bachmann, later congresswoman, rose to prominence through championing the marriage amendment.
More recent supporters, such as Sen. Warren Limmer, R-Maple Grove, argue such a basic social issue as marriage should not be left to judges and lawmakers to decide.
“I think it’s important to have the public involved,” Limmer said on a Senate media program.
Supporters believe enshrining the amendment in the state constitution would serve to ward-off legal challenges to the existing so-called Defense of Marriage laws.
Regardless whether the marriage amendment passed or failed, same-sex marriage would remain illegal in Minnesota.
The state supreme court ruled against same-sex marriage decades ago.
Limmer views same-sex marriage as historically a telltale sign of societal decline.
“It seems that society doesn’t last long,” Limmer said recently while appearing the program.
Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis, a gay legislator who married his partner in a different state, described the amendment as “hurtful and very divisive,” speaking recently on Senate Media Services as well.
Dibble argued its passage would shutdown down the conversation on same-sex marriage.
The amendment wrongly subjected gays and lesbians to a hyper-scrutiny that opposite-sex couples are never subjected to, Dibble argued.
“It says I get to vote on your marriage,” Dibble said.
Although less visceral than the marriage amendment, photo ID was hotly contested — many Democrats view it as a cloaked means of suppressing traditional Democratic voting blocs.
But Republicans argued the provision is really common sense.
“This is so can-do,” said Rep. Mary Kiffmeyer, R-Big Lake, speaking on Senate Media Services recently.
Indeed, Kiffmeyer, during a recent appearance on Twin Cities Public Television’s “Almanac,” suggested a substantial equivalency provision could have had those voting by mail simply using a coded password in order to meet the requirements of the amendment.
Democrats panned photo ID as a full-employment provision for attorneys, arguing it would attract lawsuits like a magnet.
Estimate costs of implementing photo ID have ranged from almost trivial to $100 million.