Dakota County Votes No mobilized volunteers in amendment battle

Rosemount High School teacher and Lakeville resident Veda Kanitz was so tired on Election Day she went to bed about 9:30 p.m.

Rosemount High School science teacher and Lakeville resident Veda Kanitz, an organizer of the Dakota County Votes No campaign, spoke at a kickoff event Sunday, April 29. File photo by John Gessner

She was exhausted from time spent at her job as a teacher at Rosemount High School and much of the rest of it volunteering with the Dakota County branch of Minnesotans United for All Families to campaign against passage of a proposed constitutional amendment to define marriage between one man and one woman.

After going to bed tired and “cautiously optimistic,” she said she was elated to discover the amendment that needed over 50 percent of yes votes of all ballots entered was defeated 1,550,606 (52.36) to 1,399,676 (47.64).

“It was an incredible feeling of empowerment that our efforts made a difference,” Kanitz said on Monday.

She was a volunteer with Dakota County Votes No, an affiliate of Minnesotans United, which was formed to rally voter support against the Legislature’s proposed constitutional amendment that all of the Republican legislators in Sun Thisweek’s coverage area voted to put on the ballot.

Dakota County voters rejected the measure – 125,707 (55.41) to 103,246 (44.59 percent) – on a night when seven of 12 Republicans won legislative seats in the Sun Thisweek coverage area and U.S. Rep. John Kline won his sixth term. (For statewide Republican reaction to the election, see related story.)

“The strength of this campaign was our thousands of volunteers, and our broad and diverse coalition of partners,” said Minnesotans United campaign manager Richard Carlbom in a statement. “This campaign did something that has never been done before: it brought together people of all faiths, in all communities, and of all political affiliations on the principle that freedom means freedom for everybody.”

The Dakota County Votes No effort was based in Eagan where dozens of volunteers ranging from high school students to senior citizens, including those from church groups from many different faiths, made phone calls to likely voters.

Kanitz, one of the many volunteers who helped train others, said during one of the busier of their four daily shifts on Oct. 31, 42 volunteers connected with 300 people, mostly in the metro area.

“We had a lot of very dedicated people,” Kanitz said.

She said about seven out of 10 people they spoke to indicated they would vote no on the amendment but not all for the same reason.

Some, like Kanitz, viewed the proposed amendment as hurtful to those in same-sex relationships.

“To think that people would value (those in same-sex relationships) any differently becomes a personal thing,” Kanitz said.

Others were opposed to the idea of legislating by constitutional amendment, or viewed it as government intrusion or felt it was redundant since gay marriage is already illegal in Minnesota.

Still others opposed the idea of putting such a measure into the constitution since reversing such a law if societal attitudes change is problematic.

About a week prior to the election, she said the volunteers’ effort changed from talking about why to vote no to simply encouraging people to vote.

Kanitz said she was very thankful for the entire staff, describing it as a top-notch campaign.

She said she grew through the experience as it showed her that people can make a difference through grassroots organizing.

“Sometimes you have to stand up and let people know how you feel,” she said.

As for the future of the issue of same-sex marriage, Kanitz said it shouldn’t distract the Legislature from the real issues.

She said legislators should focus on fixing the state budget, stimulating job growth and addressing other economic issues.

“I don’t expect anything on (the same-sex marriage issue) in the near future,” said Kanitz, who has a relative in a same-sex relationship. “But I fully expect that in my lifetime she will be married.”

Tad Johnson can be reached at [email protected] or facebook.com/sunthisweek.