|Dan Vacek/Minnesota Grassroots Party|
|Minnesota residents: Help legalize marijuana by writing Grassroots code  on your state tax form for 2011. Marking the box will not increase your tax or reduce your refund! Tell your friends to do the same.|
If you live in Minnesota, you’ll have an opportunity this year when you file your state tax form to support a great cause: the Minnesota Grassroots Party. After an absence of a few years, the party is back on the tax form after fielding a candidate in the 2010 statewide election.
Marking the State Elections Campaign Fund box — and filling in “15” to support the Grassroots Party — will not affect the amount of your refund or the amount of taxes you owe. It will, however, instruct the state of Minnesota to direct $5 from the campaign fund to the Grassroots Party.
“Minnesota has a publicly funded election kitty,” Minnesota Grassroots Party Treasurer Oliver Steinberg told Toke of the Town Tuesday afternoon. “There’s money available from the state government for candidates running for state office, if they have agreed to abide by certain restrictions.”
|Minnesota Grassroots Party|
To be eligible, according to Steinberg, parties need to be either recognized as a “major party” or as a “minor party” under Minnesota law.
“We have a system where if a candidate for statewide election scores five percent or more of the vote in a race, the party to which that candidate belongs is categorized as a ‘major political party,’ ” Steinberg told us. “If a candidate scores over one percent but less than five percent, their party is considered a ‘minor political party.’ ” (Candidates who poll less than one percent don’t receive recognition.)
“Taxpayers can choose to check the form, and then $5 will be donated by the state to the political party of their preference,” Steinberg said.
According to Steinberg, the Minnesota Grassroots Party has qualified to be on the ballot in the past, and it would typically bring in a few hundred dollars a year. “I think in the 1990s when the party was qualified, the check-off was $3; now it’s $5,” he said.
A big part of whether a political party gets checked off by voters — and thus receives the funds from the state — depends on whether taxpayers are aware that the party is active, according to Steinberg.
“I think the big parties get in the range of tens of thousands of dollars,” Steinberg told us. “If the Grassroots Party were to get $500 or $1,000,” it would be a tremendous boost, because we’re a very shoestring type of operation.”
The Minnesota Grassroots Party is back on the ballot this year because in 2010, their candidate for state auditor collected two percent of the vote, officially qualifying them as a minor party to which taxpayers can choose to donate.
“Our Grassroots candidate for state auditor got 35,000 votes — with less than $100 expended on the campaign,” Steinberg told us.
According to Steinberg, the party can expect even better results once Minnesota voters have more awareness that the Grassroots party wants to legalize marijuana.
“I think we’d have something similar to Michigan’s big victory in 2008 if we could have a voter initiative here, but there’s no initiative process in Minnesota,” Steinberg said. “The only way we can get legalization on the ballot here is if the Legislature puts it on the ballot.
But the Minnesota Legislature is currently controlled by conservatives, according to Steinberg. “The right wing Legislature is putting all kinds of issues on the ballot, but cannabis reform is not going to be one of them,” he said.
Among the social hot-button issues promoted by the conservative Republicans in the Minnesota Legislature as possible voter initiatives are measures which would ban gay marriage, and a so-called “Right To Work” initiative which would gut collective bargaining rights.
Steinberg said that any funds received by the Grassroots Party from the state election fund due to taxpayer check-offs would go directly into actual political campaign expenses such as buying advertising.
“We are an all-volunteer organization,” Steinberg said. “There is no paid staff or office. It would be nice to have a website; that is first on our agenda.”
To download a copy of the 2011 Individual Income Tax form for 2011 from the State of Minnesota, click here [PDF].