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Keith Ellison Answers Patch Readers' Questions (Part 1)

The Democratic incumbent is running again this election season in Minnesota's Fifth Congressional District.

Editor's Note: 5th District Patches recently asked readers to . This week, we are running the candidates' answers to some of the best questions we received. Today, we're featuring Part One of our interview with Ellison. Part Two will run tomorrow. Our interview with Fields ran on Monday and Tuesday. Here is and of that conversation.

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Lauren asks: Do you plan to vote yes or no on the voter ID amendment? Why or why not?

Ellison: I’m going to vote “no.” And I’m going to vote no because there are a lot of Minnesotans who are fully eligible to vote yet who may not posses a driver’s license or a Minnesota state ID. Because of that, I think that anything that restricts the right to vote is bad and we shouldn’t have it. Also, the justification that proponents are offering is that it would prevent fraud. It certainly would not prevent fraud, and there is no fraud. So really, this is just a strategy to suppress the vote, and I object to that.

Donna Moss asks: Congress recently voted to keep the interest rates of federal subsidized Stafford loans frozen at 3.4 percent for the next year, at which point rates will return to their original 6.8 percent unless further action is taken. Congressman Ellison, you've frequently emphasized the importance of making higher education more affordable. What is your next step? 

Ellison: My next step is to fight to keep college education affordable. I’m (a co-author) of a bill to make these student loan rates permanently low, and also to even start a process of loan forgiveness for students if they meet certain qualifications. So I think we have to keep the doors to universities open, and not just the four-year institutions—I mean the two-year ones, too. I will forever be working to reduce the cost of college education.

Seth Engman asks: Is it ever appropriate to characterize your opponent or those who disagree with you as "anti-American?"

Ellison: I think we need to focus on the issues and avoid name-calling. Certainly, I’ve been the . I don’t think it’s appropriate at any time to call your opponent Particularly if all they’re doing is trying to promote jobs and keep America out of wars. I think our political climate has too much overblown rhetoric. If you check my record, I’ve never been one to engage in negative campaigning and don’t intend to now—even if provoked.

Robert Hemphill asks: What specific choices would you make (i.e. who would you raise taxes on, what programs would you cut) in order to balance the budget?

Ellison: That’s a good question. I would start by removing the subsidies that are now enjoyed by the fossil fuel industry. There is $110 billion worth of subsidies and loopholes that the coal, natural gas and oil companies get right now. For example, BP was allowed to write-off the clean-up of the Gulf. This is an outrage and it shouldn’t exist. I would also allow the Bush tax cuts to expire, for people who make over $250,000 … I’d also seek out to close corporate loopholes that allow for off-shoring of American jobs. There are a number of those that need to be cut, not the least of which are foreign tax havens, which basically incentivize the exportation of American jobs. 

Christian U asks: Can you tell us how you plan to vote and why you are voting that way on the issue of the Minnesota marriage amendment?

Ellison: I plan on voting against the amendment. I think it’s better to call it the “anti-marriage amendment.” Look, I don’t really care what peoples’ attitudes are about homosexuality. I don’t think they’re even relevant in this issue. I think what’s relevant is, are you willing to allow Americans and Minnesotans to make their own decisions about who they want to be with? You don’t have to like it—just let people live their own lives.

Kevin Parks asks: It has been reported that after the Colorado shooting, you may propose that a limit be put on ammunition purchased over the Internet, as well as that protective (i.e. Kevlar) style clothing should only be in possession of law enforcement or military. My question is, why do you believe defensive style body armor should not be held by anyone other than those parties, and why now and not months ago?

Ellison: I don’t believe I proposed there’d be a ban or limit on the (purchase) of ammunition. What I said was, anybody who purchases 6,000 rounds of ammunition ought to come to the attention of law enforcement and ought to get a visit ... Because I can think of no reason that someone would need 6,000 rounds of ammunition, unless they were arming up to do something horrible. So I didn’t propose a ban, but I did say that there needs to be some sort of particular system that when a certain amount of ammunition is purchased within a certain amount of time, that law enforcement should know. As it relates to defensive body armor, what it allows you to do is to shoot at people but protect yourself from being shot back at. I think that there needs to be restrictions on its use, and there should be enhanced penalties if used in connection to a felony offense ... I think it’s fine for Americans to own a shotgun or a rifle or even a handgun to defend their home, to go hunting. But what we’re talking about is military style stuff. And unless you plan on waging a military action against some fellow Americans, there’s no reason for you to have this kind of stuff. The only people who should be authorized to use this kind of force are people who are legally entitled to do so, which are military and police officials. 

Mitch Mueller asks: The last several years have witnessed a gradual erosion of religious freedom. What will you do to protect our First Amendment right to religion and religious expression?

Ellison: I haven’t seen this erosion of religious freedom. I’d like to know what he might have in mind. There has been a rise in religious intolerance for some religious groups. But I don’t see the government curtailment of religious freedom. But I would say that I am four-square with the first clause of the First Amendment, which states, “Congress shall make no law establishing a religion, and shall not abridge the free exercise thereof.” I believe in that. The Constitution also says there shall be no religious tests for serving in office. I will be fighting for these things. And more than just protecting constitutional rights—I don’t think the problem is at the constitutional level. I think it’s at the tolerance level. I have been, and will continue to be, a part of interfaith dialogues to try to get people to respect each other just a little bit more and understand their commonality. I don’t think that’s necessarily the role of government, but as a member of Congress, you do have a bully pulpit—a profile. I think that I should be speaking against religious intolerance. I think I should be speaking for interfaith dialogue and greater respect among people.

G WAYNE August 15, 2012 at 02:57 PM
Sir with due respect: Just to say there is no evidence of fraud does not make it so. Because no one's been caught frauding the election is not a good reason to ask a voter "who are you?; show me an ID". It is NOT a method to surpress the vote; it's common sense. You are making an incorrect political assumptiion. It's been proven in other locations that the vote was not reduced by requiring an ID. Voters have or can get an ID w/o trouble. An ID is required for most daily transactions; Voting is important to all. I do not want my vote off set by one frauded vote. I support voter ID
Heidi August 16, 2012 at 03:03 AM
GWayne: Voter ID isn't really about voter IDs. It's about keeping certain voting blocks away from the polls.
G WAYNE August 16, 2012 at 06:08 AM
Sorry That is what the left side wants you to believe. I believe voter ID is mandatory to safeguard our right to a free vote without intrusion by illegal voters, two or more votes per person, those outside a precinct and various other maneuvers. In fact voter ID is to protect YOUR vote from fraud.
Twanna Anderson September 27, 2012 at 08:42 PM
Again, late with this line of discussion but still feel the need to respond. First, OK G Wayne. We all understand now that there are segments of the GOP world that are not big on facts, but how can you state any results of voter ID laws when there haven't been any since blacks and women were allowed to join voters in this country? The point of it is that there should be NO LIMITS PLACED ON A CITIZEN'S RIGHT TO CONTRIBUTE TO THE POLITICAL PROCESS OF THIS GREAT COUNTRY. I don't understand how anyone with a straight face and a nose that doesn't grow can actually speak the message of expulsion and exclusion from our political system and actually believe that it is okay. If there is a lick of sincerity to the claims then just send everyone an ID. Don't make people jump through hoops, produce documentation that has never been required and prove what is evident. Second, thank you Representative Ellison, for answering the questions given to you in a decisive, straight forward manner. I know where this man stands and not just because I know him personally. Am I happy with everything that has been done by Rep. Ellison since we voted him in? NOPE! No more than I am happy about President Obama but as God is my witness, I am confident (and you should be too) they are working for EVERYONE in EVERYTHING that they do. Do the research yourself and find out. That's why incumbents run on a record.

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