Twin Cities primary elections today

by Tom Ford

Through a blow horn on the West Bank campus Monday, mayoral candidate Marcus Harcus asked passers-by to “make history” by giving him their votes in today’s primary election.

But according to a group that focuses on youth voting, it’s possible that 80 percent of the students to whom Harcus preached have no idea why he was there.

If that is the case, Harcus’ bellows fell on deaf ears.

“I didn’t even know about the elections,” said Tobias Kohler, a University graduate student and nine-year Minneapolis resident.

Michelle Rosier, an organizer for Minnnesota YouthVote, speculated that only two out of 10 students know about today’s elections.

A low student turnout is consistent with the general population.

In the 2000 primaries, about 17 percent of Minnesotans voted, according to the Minnesota Secretary of State Web site.

Yet Rosier said a “mutual cycle of neglect” is a barrier particularly to student political involvement.

Typically candidates expect student turnout to be low and choose to not target them, Rosier said.

In turn, she said, students feel ignored. She said they don’t bother to vote because they feel issues important to them go unaddressed.

But there are other reasons, Rosier said. Those who’ve just moved to the area, have been gone during the summer or live outside of the Twin Cities might have difficulty following important city races.

University freshman Brad Spychalski said he did not know primary elections are today, and that, coming from Green Bay, Wisc., he is still getting used to the Twin Cities.

“Many students don’t feel like they know enough to vote,” Rosier said. “They don’t have a lot of commercials (about the elections) … and the students don’t know what’s happening.”

And she said it’s difficult for MYV to organize candidate debates or events for colleges before the primaries because the group cannot widely advertise to students who aren’t on campus in the summer.

Jon Petersen, a University junior, said he doesn’t think most students are “aware of what the City Council can do for us.”

But some students are eager to vote.

Jareesa Tucker, a University sophomore and Minneapolis resident, has watched some debates on television and has paid attention to candidates.

“I’m going to live here for the next few years, and I want to have a say in what goes on,” Tucker said.

Rosier said the key to bringing out student voters is to get candidates on campus who will speak in ways young adults will understand.

MYV, which aims to register 10,000 student voters statewide this year, has scheduled an October Minneapolis mayoral candidate forum at the Humphrey Institute that is expected to cater to young adults.


Tom Ford welcomes comments
at [email protected] and Robyn Repya welcomes comments at [email protected]