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October 31, 2014

Those who choose not to vote on marriage amendment still affect outcome

The special interests behind both sides of the gay marriage debate are raising millions of dollars as they ramp up for what’s shaping up to be a close fight.

But while a recent survey shows a nearly 50-50 split in support for the amendment, a peculiarity in Minnesota’s voting laws means it could take much more than that to pass it.

Public Policy Polling in late January reported 48 percent of voters support the amendment.

But, as Hamline Prof. David Schultze tells Talking Points Memo, anyone who shows up at the polls and declines to vote on the issue counts as a “no” vote. Schultze says he expects the amendment will fail.

“Since 1900, the constitution has required the approval of a majority of those voting at the election — not just a majority of those voting on the amendment question — to ratify the amendment,” says a document from the Minnesota Legislative Reference Library. “Historically, it has taken roughly a 60 percent ‘yes’ vote to pass an amendment.”