University of Minnesota Senate pushes for voter ID education

Their resolution to hold teach-ins passed earlier this month.

Emma Nelson

The University of Minnesota Senate suspended its rules to pass a resolution encouraging education on the voter ID amendment before the Nov. 6 election.

The resolution was written by members of the Senate’s Equity, Access and Diversity committee.

Resolutions normally have to be submitted a month in advance of Senate meetings to be considered, but the voter ID proposal was submitted just days before.

Michelle Thimios, co-chair of the University’s chapter of the Minnesota Public Interest Research Group, said she thinks the University Senate’s stance shows that voter ID is a matter of students’ rights rather than a partisan issue.

The University Senate doesn’t lobby or endorse candidates but takes stances on issues relevant to members of the University community, said Katie Ballering, a professional and administrative employee representative on the committee.

“We definitely thought that this was an issue of both access and equality,” Ballering said. “And it would be specifically targeting one of our groups that we represent — students, in this case.”

The University Senate passed a similar resolution in May opposing the marriage amendment. The resolution — which was also written by the EAD committee — suggests holding teach-ins to educate the University community about the issue.

“We felt it was important not only that the University just take a stand and say something publicly, but they also do something,” said Irene Duranczyk, chair of the EAD committee.

But Duranczyk said teach-ins on the marriage amendment haven’t taken place, and there are no plans for formal events on the voter ID amendment. It is the responsibility of individual faculty to act on the suggestion, she said.

A lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups to stop the voter ID amendment from being on the ballot delayed the committee from drafting a position earlier, Ballering said.

“It wasn’t that we didn’t have the same feelings in the past,” she said. “It was just a matter of hoping that it wouldn’t be an issue.”

This fall, the committee didn’t think there was enough time to pass a resolution that would go before the Senate, Duranczyk said.

But when the Senate Consultative Committee saw the resolution, they called for a suspension of the rules so the resolution could be passed quickly by the University Senate.

“It was a really big deal,” said Duranczyk, who presented the proposal to the Senate.

When President Eric Kaler closed the Oct. 4 meeting, Duranczyk said, he reminded the Senate of Duranczyk’s comments on the amendments and of the need for increased education.

Thimios said she has seen a lot of misunderstanding from students about the effects that the voter ID amendment would have. The misunderstanding may be a matter of the amendment being associated with voter fraud and voter impersonation, she said.

Duranczyk said she thinks there should be more education at the University about the amendment.

It would be easier to inform students if there was a University-wide initiative, Thimios said, but MPIRG has been able to reach students in other ways.

Professors have been receptive to MPIRG representatives giving presentations about the issue in class, she said, adding that there is “an overwhelming lack of support” for the amendments from faculty.

In her statistics classes, Duranczyk incorporates information about the amendments.

 On a recent exam, she used data about the effect that students can have on the electoral process with the amendments as  examples.

“I didn’t do it to change their idea,” she said, “but to help them think about what the issues were and what impact that they could have.”