Letters: End the death penalty

6December 2020

“The U.S. Justice Department is “quietly amending its execution protocols” eyeing the potential use of firing squads and the electric chair (“U.S. to return to firing squads? Gas chambers?” Nov. 27). In 2020 alone, after a 17-year hiatus, the Justice Department has dramatically increased executions with the ninth, of Brandon Bernard, scheduled for Dec. 10 and tenth, of Alfred Bourgeo, scheduled for Dec. 11. Three additional executions are planned for January 2021.

While many crimes inflict great pain and suffering, the death penalty provides no simple or easy solution, nor is it a deterrent to crime.

Minnesota abolished the death penalty in 1911 after the botched hanging of William Williams. Federal executions challenge our conscience as a nation and as individuals. Please write your legislators to help end this nation’s abhorrent death penalty practice.

Ashley E. Lopez, St Paul

Vaccinate seniors

According to recent Minnesota Dept. of Health data, 89% of Covid-19 deaths occur in 12% of Minnesota’s population 65 years of age and older.  People in that age group are 50 times more likely to die from Covid-19 than those in the younger age groups.

I agree front-line medical workers and long-term care residents should be first to get the vaccine. You need health care workers to treat the sick, and many deaths occur in long-term care facilities.

If older individuals are prioritized for vaccination, Covid-19 deaths would drop dramatically and so would the crushing demand for staffing intensive care units in our hospitals.

Is reducing Minnesota Covid-19 deaths a priority? Vaccinating 1 in 10 would eliminate 9 in 10 deaths.

Duane Shodeen, Oakdale

Redraw, reform

“In Order to Form a More Perfect Union … ”

(From the Preamble to the US Constitution)

If you were going to create a democracy, you would probably start by giving each adult citizen the right to vote. Would you then backtrack, and make some votes count more than others? Why would you? But that is exactly what the U.S. Constitution has been doing since its inception in the late 1700s, both in choosing a president, and U.S. senators. It’s time to rectify this historical anachronism.

When the 13 original colonies became The United States, the smaller ones wanted to ensure that they would not be overwhelmed by the larger ones. So a compromise was reached: every state got two senators, and each state got one vote in the Electoral College for each of its members in both the House and Senate. This inevitably leads to a distortion of democracy: smaller states wield a disproportionate amount of power.  A U.S. senator from Wyoming, for example, represents fewer than 300,000 people, one from California, almost 20,000,000. Currently, only 20 senators out of 100 represent about half of the entire population. Absurd! And this is likely to become even more distorted as the U.S. becomes even more urbanized. The same rules also distort the Electoral College, which helps explain why we have had five presidents who lost the popular vote. Also absurd.

Here is a proposal: First, abolish the Electoral College, and have the president chosen by popular vote. Second, after the 2030 census, divide the U.S. into 400 regions, non-gerrymandered, of nearly equal population, Washington, D.C., included. Each region gets one representative in the House; every four contiguous regions get one U.S. Senator. Based on an estimated U.S. population of 330,000,000, each member of the House would represent 825,000 people, each Senator 3,300,000. Large states like California and Texas would get multiple senators, but they would be chosen by a region, not the whole state. So “blue” California would likely have some Republicans in the Senate; “red” Texas would likely have some Democrats. In some cases, a district could overlap state lines.

The United States of the 21st century is not the country it was in the 18th. We are much larger, much more diverse, and becoming more so every day. About 44 million people living in the U.S. were born in another country; fewer than 60% of us who were born in the U.S. live in the state of our birth. Our identity with our state is not as important as it was to the founders. These changes would go a long way toward making our democracy more fair, our votes more equal. It’s time for reform.

Lee Hartzheim, St. Paul

Meet, stand up, overcome

As a Baby Boomer, over the years we as a country and people have overcome major obstacles and challenges. Thinking back, we dealt with polio, TB (remember the Mantoux tuberculin skin test), smallpox epidemics, the tail end of Korea, the Cold War fears, Vietnam, assassination of a president, major storms and destruction, Oklahoma bombings of innocent children and adults, Y2K, the Twin Towers, Middle East conflicts, and many other occurrences.

My point is that we as an aging generation must not forget how the country, even though separated on personal issues, eventually came together and realized that we can and should put away our differences to meet at a point to overcome and solve the new and challenges we are facing today.

It’s time to stand up and realize the issues at hand. Not only for us Boomers but to carry on the older generations’ goals and visions that have been passed on to us

Keith Hoffmann, Afton

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