Racism alleged in voter ID campaign

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The debate over a proposed voter ID constitutional amendment took a new twist today when opponents accused supporters of using racial imagery to push their agenda.

TakeAction Minnesota and other anti-amendment groups accused the pro-amendment group Minnesota Majority of using its web site for “race baiting.” Minnesota Majority is leading the effort to require citizens to show a photo identification in order to vote. An image on the group’s website shows people lined up at a voting booth, including three in what appear to be Halloween costumes, along with an African-American man dressed in a striped prison uniform and another person in a mariachi costume. During a news conference, state Rep. Rita Rena Moran, DFL-St. Paul, said she was sickened by what she views as racial stereotypes.

“They presume to call out certain groups of voting constituencies — African Americans, Latinos in particular — and compare them to the fearful characters of Halloween,” Moran said. “This is wrong.”

But Dan McGrath, executive director of Minnesota Majority, rejected the claims as “ridiculous.” He said the images are a political cartoon, and he described it as “coincidental” that the felon attempting to vote is an African American. McGrath explained the person in the mariachi costume is “supposed to be an illegal immigrant, and it’s kind of difficult to convey that.”

McGrath also rejected TakeAction Minnesota’s request that Minnesota Majority remove the images from its web site. He said the message is about ineligible voters and has nothing to do with race.

“These kind of groups use that tactic all the time,” McGrath said. “When they don’t have an intellectually valid argument to make, they resort to ad hominem attacks and accuse their opponent of being a racist. I think it’s wearing thin, and I think the public doesn’t buy that kind of stuff anymore.”

UPDATE

The pro-amendment group changed the impage on its web site.