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Racial Justice in Minnesota is Possible

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Lessons from communities of color in the struggle over voting rights in Minnesota

In the days following the elections, provocative headlines like “The New Supermajority: Latinos and People of Color” proclaimed the demographic and electoral power of communities of color within the United States. It’s true that people of color, women and young people who turned out the vote had a significant impact on the outcomes at the polling place. This new alignment has surprised many.  Yet, beneath the rhetoric and the high turnout numbers is an ongoing battle to shape the electorate and which voices are heard in the decision-making process.

Minnesota was just one site in the broader attack on the voting rights of communities of color and low-income people that manifested this past election. In our state, the attack took the form of a proposed Voter ID amendment that would have disenfranchised thousands in our communities.  The legislation, backed by local politicians connected to ALEC and other conservative interest groups, came at a time when the proportion of Minnesotans who are people of color has grown over 400 percent in the last 30 years – from 4 percent to 17 percent of the state population (MN Compass, Metropolitan Council).   Below are a few lessons gained from our work to defeat voter restriction in Minnesota.  These thoughts come directly out of conversations with leaders from communities of color who helped engage and inspire a critical group of voters to defeat the Voter ID amendment.

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