Star Tribune, Minneapolis, Dec. 14

Minnesota GOP delegation embarrasses state

Democratic norms prevailed Monday: The Electoral College confirmed that President-elect Joe Biden did indeed win the Nov. 3 election. The Republican members of Minnesota’s congressional delegation who tried to subvert the will of the American people last week should take note.

The Electoral College confirmation comes after courts spanning several state and federal jurisdictions (including the Supreme Court, twice) either declined to hear a case or ruled against all but one of 60 disparate, desperate lawsuits intended to overturn a free and fair election that gave Biden the same number of electoral votes as President Donald Trump won in 2016 and the most votes of any U.S. presidential candidate, ever.

The most legally egregious of these efforts (affronts, really) was a Texas lawsuit that sought to overturn the results in Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — four states that Biden clearly won, as multiple recounts reaffirmed. (Of course the litigation wasn’t targeted toward any states that Trump won, like Texas itself.)

But Lone Star state Republicans were not alone in backing this disgrace to democracy. North Star Republican Reps. Tom Emmer, Jim Hagedorn and Pete Stauber were among the more than 100 House GOP members who put party over country, let alone lies over truth, by supporting the effort. Rep.-elect Michelle Fischbach had indicated that if she were already in Congress she would have been complicit in trying to overturn the election, too.

All four had no qualms claiming they were duly elected on Nov. 3, even though Minnesota took some of the same common-sense measures to make voting safe during the deadly pandemic that they found so unfair in other states.

The result should have been the cause for celebration, not litigation: National turnout was up significantly. Minnesota once again led the nation in voter participation, and for this state’s Republicans in particular it was a relatively good election. Fischbach flipped the Seventh District seat, and the party gained seats in the state House, narrowing the slight DFL majority.

The embarrassing fealty to Trump displayed by the four representatives should be deeply disappointing to all Minnesotans. But unfortunately, it’s not surprising. Their blind loyalty was among the reasons why Emmer, Fischbach and Hagedorn did not earn the Star Tribune Editorial Board’s endorsement this year.

Stauber did win our endorsement, based in part on his occasional willingness to buck Trump on issues including the president’s obsessive assault on the Affordable Care Act. But Stauber, like his Minnesota GOP colleagues, couldn’t bring the same discipline and character he mustered on a policy issue to a more profoundly fundamental issue like voting in swing states.

Emmer, Hagedorn, Stauber and Fischbach have apparently passed their most recent loyalty test from Trump by joining his campaign to overthrow a 7-million-vote election defeat. However they choose to represent their constituents over the next two years, their collective failure to uphold democratic norms in 2020 should not be forgotten.


Mankato Free Press, Mankato, Dec. 14

Minnesota election process in good shape

Minnesotans hold dear their right to vote and this year was no different. Nearly 80% of eligible voters participated in the November election, making us No. 1 in the nation in turnout. As in the Mankato region, the election was carried out smoothly all across the state.

And yet, a state Senate elections committee last week called by a former secretary of state clearly attempts to find something suspicious that’s not there.

Republican Sen. Mary Kiffmeyer, the committee chair, insists that the public has a right to inquire about the election system without having their motives questioned.

Her motives, however, are transparent, as are all of the other hearings, lawsuits and orchestrated attempts by President Donald Trump and some Republicans to uncover the fraud that isn’t there. Election officials, courts and straight-up facts all confirm the integrity of the election. Kiffmeyer even jumped onto the bandwagon to try to get the Texas attorney general to add Minnesota to the list of states in his lawsuit before the U.S. Supreme Court seeking to overturn the results of the presidential election.

Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon, along with election officials across the country, worked diligently to ensure people could safely vote during the pandemic. Republicans are desperately trying to find holes in a system that was successful.

Among Kiffmeyer’s concerns is that there were changes to rules for absentee balloting before the elections. As we’ve said all along, waiving the requirement of a witness signature made perfect sense during a pandemic when the safety of vulnerable voters was of utmost importance.

The conspiracy theories about dead people voting, data being stolen from computer systems and other such gossip are tiresome. As a former secretary of state, Kiffmeyer should recognize the integrity of Minnesota’s system and stop trying to find evidence that’s not there.

Simon stressed that his office has received no credible reports of fraud or voter misconduct. The Minnesota Supreme Court dismissed a lawsuit filed by Republicans that sought to overturn the certification of Minnesota election results.

Simon understandably has little patience for the lies being spread about the election process. His own family members have been harassed, he said. Elsewhere death threats have surfaced against those who have advocated for the integrity of the election process.

Continuing to question the integrity of a proven process only feeds the divisiveness that already plagues the nation.

Kiffmeyer and other Republicans should recognize reality and stop with the harmful accusations and trying to cast shadows of doubt. Minnesotans deserve better. They did their part and cast ballots in a legitimate election. Responsible lawmakers do not participate in ramping up dangerous misinformation campaigns.


St. CLoud Times, St. Cloud, Dec. 11

Body cameras need strong public policy

St. Cloud City Council members have unanimously approved a 2021 budget that includes money for police body cameras.

It’s about time.

Mayor Dave Kleis said it was something the city has been wanting to do for a long time, but cost prohibited early adoption. Other area policing agencies — Sauk Rapids, Waite Park and Stearns and Sherburne county sheriffs’ departments — all went first.

We get it: Cameras cost money, and so does storage of video files. The city estimates the project will cost St. Cloud roughly $300,000 to start.

So it’s good that St. Cloud finally made this decision. But it’s the beginning, not the end, of the process. What might be the most vital part of this investment doesn’t have a price tag: a good policy, and ongoing public oversight of compliance.

Minnesota has extensive laws in place governing body cameras and whether the footage they record is public. We think some of those rules are reasonable: “Law enforcement agencies may release any non-public body cam data to the public to aid law enforcement, promote public safety, or dispel rumor or unrest. (Minnesota statute 13.82, subd. 15)” according to the Minnesota Department of Administration Data Practices Division.

We also believe the provision that allows officers who are the subject of an otherwise private recording to ask for the public release of video is a good one.

We disagree with others, namely the relatively short periods that recordings must be retained (as little as 90 days in some cases).

Still, the law only says what is supposed to happen, not what does happen. That’s in the hands of the public servants who wear our city’s uniform every day and every night.

We know that body cameras only work when officers use them, and the footage captured by them only protects officers and the public when the community is confident that it is handled in compliance with the law.

And we trust that it will be. But too many communities, especially communities of color or poverty, have little recent reason to trust anyone in a police uniform.

So a strong St. Cloud policy on when and where body cameras should be used, specifically when they may be turned off, can make police body cameras an effective tool in rebuilding the trust eroded by decades of officer killings, and wrongful killings by officers, around the nation.

That policy — our community’s policy — will be the topic of a Dec. 21 public hearing.

A draft of the policy can be seen on the City of St. Cloud’s website. We see that draft as comprehensive, but not flawless — which is, of course, an impossible task.

However, of greatest comfort in the draft policy is the specific outline of when officers are expected to use the devices, albeit with many potential loopholes.

Of greatest concern is the absence of specific consequences for violating the policy, beyond that there might (or might not) be some, at the discretion of supervisors.

St. Cloud Police Chief Blair Anderson said, “The only people who worry about body cameras are the people who aren’t doing things the way they should be done — and that’s not us. I have no trepidation about that aspect of it.”

The public should trust that. And it should also involve itself in learning about and having a say in how Central Minnesota’s largest police agency will handle this powerful new tool. That is the community’s role in protecting its protectors, and its people.