Reframing Minnesota’s Moronic Ballot Questions

The good news is that the Minnesota Legislature pledges to adjourn earlier this year than they did last year. The bad news is that they are pushing their lawmaking responsibilities off to voters. Legislators are passing the buck on policy decisions about legislative rules, labor law, voting limitations, and marriage law.

And so now, we’re going to have a little taste of California coming our way. Not balmy weather and trend-setting, but endless ballot initiative campaigns.

Because Republicans are controlling the Minnesota Legislature, they get to write the bills that put these amendments on the ballot. As such, they get the first crack at framing the issue, and reporters largely mimick their framing (though the Star Tribune does now put quotation marks on the term “right-to-work”).

Then, the job of opponents will be to try to reframe the issue. Overwhelmed voters facing a lengthy ballot aren’t likely to dedicate a lot of frontal lobe bandwidth to these decisions, so the battle will be over what soundbite voters are hearing in their heads as they read the amendments on Election Day.

One bloggers’ lightly informed thoughts about reframing:

Supermajority Amendment” should be reframed as “Supergridlock Amendment.” Tagline: “If you like gridlock, you’ll love the Supergridlock Amendment.”

Strategy: Tap into the powerful post-government shutdown sentiment that is driving the 72% disapproval rating for the Minnesota Legislature among Independent voters.

Right-to-Work Amendment” should be reframed as “Right-to-Leech Amendment.” Tagline: “Because we all love That Guy who drinks the beer, but is nowhere to be found when the bill arrives.”

Strategy: Make the argument personal instead of about abstract notions of “pro- or anti-union.” That is, make it about the fundamental unfairness of some benefiting, but expecting others to pay for their benefits.

Photo ID Amendment” should be reframed as “Voter Red Tape Amendment.” Tagline: “A bureaucratic solution in search of a problem.”

Strategy: Frame this as something independent voters are very wary of – more unnecessary bureaucratic red tape making life more complex. About half (47%) of independent voters say regulation usually does more harm than good.

Same Sex Marriage Amendment” should be reframed as “Marriage Ban Amendment.” Tagline: “Who is government to say who someone can and can’t love?

Strategy: Frame it as the government overreaching by appointing itself The Love Police.

As is my custom, I’m operating 100% fact free here. I haven’t seen any of the relevant voter research, or findings from other states. But right now, all of these amendments look like they could pass, so even ignorant brainstorming from the peanut gallery probably can’t hurt.

– Loveland

4 thoughts on “Reframing Minnesota’s Moronic Ballot Questions

  1. John Merritt says:

    Voter turnout will likely be high since this is a presidential election year, but that may give opponents to any or all the proposed amendments a slight glimmer of hope since not voting on an amendment in MN counts as a “no” vote. And aren’t amendments typically listed last on the ballot, after all the judges, etc. — meaning a lot of voters may not get that far?

    Or maybe it’s just Monday, and I’m still at my glass half-full worldview. Give me an hour or two…

  2. Joe Loveland says:

    I know I’ve weighed in on this before, but I still choke on my Cheerios every time reporters mimic the conservative groups’ market tested “right-to-work” terminology. Their approach to editing it is now to slap quotation markets around the conservatives spin, instead of calling it something neutral and factually descriptive such as “union opt-out proposal.” That’s what they have done on the abortion issue, when they avoid both the “pro-choice” label and the “right-to-life” label, and often go with “abortion restrictions” or “pro-/anti-abortion rights.” The use of quotation marks is a journalism major subtlety that is surely glossed over by many-to-most readers.

  3. Mrs. Fay says:

    but seriously….A small majority of people who voted here 2 years ago, voted to overturn Maine’s Marriage Equality law. Because the equality camp has spent the last 2 years trying to change public opinion by actually introducing real same sex couples with real stories as real people, there is a chance that we might have same sex marriage here (again). It seems like an effective strategy, we shall see.
    Good Luck with your ballot thingys.

  4. Joe Loveland says:

    I’m also intrigued with the idea of enlightened interests funding some kind of effort to convince voters to vote “no” on ALL of the amendments, with a message something along the lines of “make the do-nothing lawmakers in St. Paul do the jobs we hired them to do, instead of cluttering up our ballots with all of this junk.” Not sure there is enough voter sentiment for that to fly, but it intrigues me.

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