Editor’s note: Access Press is working with Ramsey County on an effort to get information out about elections and voting. In that spirit, we go through the many newspapers atop Tim’s Desk so that we can share past thoughts on elections and voting from retired Executive Director Tim Benjamin,
Access Press has a long history of urging Minnesotans with disabilities to educate themselves on local, state and national election issues, and to learn about and vote for the candidates of their choice at all levels. The paper does not endorse candidates and ballot questions.
Instead Access Press offers advice to get ballots to voters and to help Minnesota’s disability community vote for the people and issues of their personal choice. It is important for Minnesotans with disabilities to know how to early vote, cast a ballot with an agent or understand potentially complex guardianship issues.
This column excerpt is from March 2020
Another topic, but one that relates back to all of the [crises of 2020] is our ability to vote. We all have that ability, and it is our responsibility, too. …Spend the time you need to identify the best candidates, people who will be able to lead us through the continuing problems to come. I do believe we are going to continue to see problems beyond anything most of us have ever seen. We need someone who will take us in the right direction, who is willing to admit mistakes and demonstrate wisdom in addressing our common problems. So vote. Our votes matter and our voices matter if we want to solve problems and create a better future.
Another familiar topic is that of the power of the disability community at the ballot box, which he wrote about in March 2008. Too many people don’t realize the potential voting bloc the disability community would provide.
I wonder when all the candidates will recognize the size of the disability community and its voting power. Did you know that there are approximately 325,000 potential voters with disabilities in Minnesota? That’s huge! So tell your candidates what you want and then go out yourself and vote. No excuses! It’s easy to learn about the candidates and their positions, even from their flyers arriving in your mailbox. On the flyer is usually a phone number to call. If the person who answers the phone is unable to answer your questions or concerns adequately, ask the volunteer to have the candidate call you directly. You’d be surprised how many of them will make the call for just one potential vote.
And of course that one vote—yours—is the most important one.
Guardianship has also been a longtime focus of his. Benjamin has always opined strongly about guardianship, noting in 2009:
It’s rather disheartening that in this era that the parent of a developmentally disabled individual would not allow their son or daughter to vote. And it’s of special concern when the parent is not allowing their adult child to vote when the adult child is voting for the opposing candidate. And the parent is saying that the adult child has been swayed to vote for the opposing candidate because of undue influence by group home employees.
We are all given the right to vote and competency is determined by the court. As far as I’m concerned, if someone denies another family member the right, they are the one that is swaying the vote. I wonder if the family member would allow the other family member to vote if they were voting for the same candidate. Sometimes I wonder, when listening to some of the advertising that political candidates put on the air this fall, if they think in general that the public is not competent to understand the issues in detail. Maybe there’s been too much judgment of other’s peoples’ competence in most elections.
He also focused closely on law changes to guardianship, both in his column and in news articles. In 2004 Benjamin pointed out the changes in guardianship law in the early 2000s,citing potential conflicts between state law and what the state constitution said, and the many conflicts inherent in someone working to restore the right to vote.
But there have been opportunities for a sense of humor with elections coverage. Benjamin and the staff took a wry approach to the 2004 elections:
T’was days after elections, not a recount in sight. What will happen now? This is our plight. Alas, the voting is all done; the power passed to those who won. No more political ads via TV or mail — back to good ol’ materialistic temptations and sales. But, what we shall we discuss, around the watercooler we sit? Probably the weather and that same ol’ bull…
”WAIT!” the pundit proclaimed, “there’s wrap-up, analysis, and plenty of blame! Voter turnout, policy change, and balance of power; that could keep us busy for countless more hours!