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We don't all agree with the editorial

As the community representative on the Dispatch editorial board, I need to clarify that new editor Keith Hansen’s recent column about contraceptive coverage is not accurate.

We do not all agree.

Our editorial board discussions were lively and we did agree that this is a very thorny issue given the first amendment issue, the Catholic church’s need to employ many women of child-bearing age who may or may not adhere to the church’s teachings, the whole issue of women’s health, and the media hysterics of late.

I think the administration’s attempt to provide equal access to quality health care for all, including all women, is noble. For church-affiliated institutions to attract and retain quality employees at all levels, benefits comparable to secular companies have to be offered. Individuals need to be able to make their own health care decisions and prescription coverage is an important aspect of many of those choices. The pill is taken for many reasons other than birth control and access to these drugs, and not necessarily the $9 a month version, may be necessary.

Women must not be singled out as a sub-group, only selectively insured. The administration’s compromise allows the Church to stand on its principles while employees still receive benefits they need.

And, by the way, I strongly disagree on the need for the voting ID constitutional amendment — voter fraud is not a big enough issue for this heavy-handed solution — but I missed that discussion. Just don’t associate my name with that opinion.

Jackie Burkey


Photo ID is no solution

While I agree with Keith Hansen that “voter fraud is a serious matter,” (March 6), I don’t agree that photo ID is the solution. Instead of solving the problems that Mr. Hansen raises, photo ID would create new ones.

Mr. Hansen says felons are voting and people with disabilities are being coached by others on how to vote. Current photo ID proposals address neither concern. Photo IDs don’t list criminal status, so felons with an ID could still cast ballots. Influencing voters can be curtailed if election staff watch for it and stop it when it occurs.

Instead of creating confidence in our elections, photo ID creates barriers. The League of Women Voters Minnestoa says 10 percent of our citizens with disabilities lack a proper ID. That means at least 27,000 residents — double the population of Brainerd - could be affected.

Getting the proper ID can mean significant costs. If a voter lacks a birth certificate, the cost for a copy is $26 — a significant expense for those with little income. If the certificate needs to be modified, it could mean court costs, which can total over $200 in states with photo ID laws. If the office providing phot IDs is not nearby, it could mean significant travel costs and unpaid leave from work — assuming you already have transportation. These costs are unacceptable; no one should have to pay to cast their vote.

As an organization advocating for the rights of persons with disabilities in Crow Wing and other northern Minnesota counties, we want all citizens to have a say in their lives to the fullest extent possible — including the right to vote. I urge Rep. John Ward and Sen. Paul Gazelka to look for other ways to address Mr. Hansen’s concerns and reject photo ID.

Cassandra Robinson

The Arc United


Westgard, tree-hugger

What a bunch of baloney from Rolf Westgard, in his recent “Guest Column”, “Oil Is Still There.” Westgard’s true colors, as a liberal Democrat environmentalist, are showing, for sure. Westgard’s half truths, that are politically biased to the left, are a big turn-off! The Brainerd Dispatch, would be wiser to not honor tree-huggers like Westgard, by giving them a Guest Column. Newt Gingrich advocates a peaceful overthrow within Iran if at all feasible, by supporting Iranian citizens, when they’ve risen up against the clerics in control in Iran now, similar to the end of the former Soviet Union, as advocated by the late President Reagan. I invite Brainerd Dispatch readers to go to, to read Newt’s “Contract With America” to verify this. The current Democratic Washington administration, has had opportunities to support just such an Iranian change, in their government ... however, our so called commander-in-chief, has done nothing to support Iranian citizens, that are against their current dictatorship. I suggest, Rolf Westgard needs to make an attempt to be more honest in future guest columns” in the Brainerd Dispatch.

Jack Schilla


Dispatch is a GOP mouthpiece

Well, well, well — we now have even more proof that the Brainerd Dispatch is truly a GOP mouthpiece. In its Sunday edition (March 11, 2012) editorial by Keith Hansen it spouts the Republican line right out of the party’s playbook and from the Fox News TV political network. Specifically the paper and the GOP approve of dictating to women on their health needs and insurance coverage. Nationally, women are/were not consulted, yet they are 50 percent of the voting population. GOP men decide these things and non-GOP women’s views are apparently not considered. It makes readers and subscribers of this newspaper wonder how the Dispatch ownership and management treat their employees, families, and especially women in its health plans. I would bet that the decision makers are well taken care of.

M. Fritz Bertelt


LMV opposes voter ID

Keith Hansen’s recent commentary on Voter ID contained a great many of his opinions but very few verifiable facts. Yes, it is a partisan issue, and yes, there were multiple allegations of voter fraud in the 2010 election; however nearly all the accusations of fraud were found to be unfounded. In fact, of the 144 people in Minnesota convicted of voter fraud since 2009, the vast majority involved felons who voted illegally. Photo IDs would not have identified any of these cases. The state is already responding to that issue with better systems of notifying released felons of their voting restrictions.

Voter impersonation is the only thing that photo IDs would catch, and there have been no prosecutions for voter impersonation in recent years.Dan McGrath of the Minnesota Majority did find one Coon Rapids woman who in 2009 filled out an absentee ballot for her daughter, but even that one case did not result in a formal charge.

The League of Women Voters opposes the voter ID constitutional amendment. We believe that the 144,000 Minnesota potential voters currently without photo IDs would experience undue hardship and inconvenience in accessing these documents.

Mark Ritchie, secretary of state, recommended a much simpler and more effective measure to uphold our voting standards just last week. His proposal would incorporate “electronic poll books,” technology that Mr. Ritchie has advocated as a less-expensive alternative to a state-issued voter ID card. This would address the problem in a way that protects the rights of all our voters while better assuring the voting process.

The whole voter ID law idea came out of ALEC, whose founder, Paul Weyrich, told a group of religious conservatives in 1980 that “I don’t want everybody to vote ... our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.” The drive for new, restrictive voter ID laws began after the highest voter turnout since 1948 elected Barack Obama. Mary Kiffmeyer, sponsor of the voter ID constitutional amendment, is the state co-chairperson for ALEC.

Surely we don’t want people like Mr. Weyrich influencing our constitution or our voting rights. Voting is every citizen’s right, and it is guaranteed and protected by the United States and Minnesota Constitutions. Let’s keep it that way.

BETH PASSI is voter services representative for the Brainerd Lakes Area League of Women Voters. She lives in Baxter.

Denton (Denny) Newman Jr.
I've worked at the Brainerd Dispatch with various duties since Dec. 7, 1983. Starting off as an Ad Designer and currently Director of Audience Development. The Dispatch has been an interesting and challenging place to work. I'm fortunate to have made many friends, both co-workers and customers.
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