Groups prep for city races

Student organizations will help register voters and host candidate debates.

by Cati Vanden Breul

The mayoral and city council primaries are over. Now the real work begins for student groups to register people to vote.

Student groups knocked on doors and got people registered to vote for the Sept. 13 primary elections. Now they want even more people to preregister for the general election on Nov. 8.

The Minnesota Student Association will focus primarily on registering first-year students, said Christina Baldwin, the group’s legislative affairs chairwoman.

Most students older than 18 would have registered last year for the national elections, she said. So focusing on students who didn’t vote then – especially students who weren’t old enough – would be more beneficial, she said.

She contacted residence hall community advisers during the summer to see if they would put voter registration cards in the residence halls, and they agreed, she said.

Although MSA’s efforts this year are small compared to the work the group did for last year’s national election, Baldwin said she and Emily Serafy Cox, MSA president, are excited about the local elections.

“Our big thing is local elections; we are pretty much obsessed with them, so we wanted to hit the ground running this year,” Baldwin said.

Registering students to vote is not all MSA and other student groups are doing to prepare for the general election.

MSA and the Minnesota Public Interest Research Group have planned debates among the Minneapolis and St. Paul mayoral candidates, and the City Council candidates from Ward 2, which includes the majority of the University’s Minneapolis campus. All of the debates will occur in October.

Minneapolis incumbent mayor R.T. Rybak and his opponent County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin, as well as City Council candidates Cara J. Letofsky and Cam Gordon will debate on different dates in Coffman Union. St. Paul mayoral candidates, incumbent Randy Kelly and his rival Chris Coleman, will debate at Macalester College in St. Paul.

MSA gave the candidates a survey asking them their positions on different issues, and will publish their responses the week of Oct. 12, Baldwin said.

Although MSA will not endorse any candidates, other groups on campus are helping out on some of the candidates’ campaigns.

The University’s chapter of the Democratic Farmer-Labor Party, is supporting Cara J. Letofsky for City Council in Ward 2, said Max Page, the group’s president.

They will not be endorsing any mayoral candidates because the state DFL has not supported anyone, and the student group is part of the state organization, Page said.

Group members will knock on doors and hand out fliers and let students know where they can vote.

But, instead of trying to pre-register students, they are educating them on how simple it is to register on Election Day, hoping the technique will get more students to the polls that day, Page said.

“You can bring your U Card and register at the polling place; it’s that simple,” he said.

The College Greens are involved in similar efforts on campus, but are supporting Letofsky’s opponent Cam Gordon, said co-chairman Jesse Lickel.

The College Republicans at the University of Minnesota are not endorsing anyone because no Republicans are on the ticket, president Jason Baskin said.

But they might support Kelly’s mayoral campaign in St. Paul because the mayor has supported President George W. Bush in the past, Baskin said.