Poor weather subdues voting event

Two nonpartisan groups organized the event to encourage young people to vote.

by Jared Roddy

A rally at Boom Island Park to mobilize young voters met some misfortune Friday afternoon when poor weather kept most of the would-be attendees away.

Paddle for the Presidency and Mobilizing America’s Youth – nonpartisan youth voting organizations – held a rally featuring bands and speakers to encourage young people to vote.

Fifteen groups attended the event to provide information on other issues vital to youth voters. But the crowd never materialized, and lobbyists outnumbered attendees.

Groups at the event included the University’s Minnesota Public Interest Research Group, the University DFL and the League of Women Voters.

Sen. Mark Dayton, D-Minn., also addressed some of the young activists. Dayton said student financial aid used to be equal parts grants, loans and work study. Now, loans equal approximately 80 percent of student aid, he said.

“Our failure as a group is we haven’t responded to the pocketbook issue of student aid,” Dayton said. “The Republicans don’t want to bring it up and I regret to say that the Democrats haven’t done anything either.”

State Rep. Keith Ellison, DFL-Minneapolis, also spoke to the small crowd between sets by the groups The Not Yets and Word for Word.

“Say ‘no’ to cynicism,” Ellison said. “You’ve got to be willing to be a political soldier, because that’s how change is made.”

Terri Ramiah, a University journalism student, registered voters at her table.

“I think there needs to be more of an effort to include young voters,” she said. “We’re ignored, and out-of-state students often have difficulty just getting to vote.”

Both of the main organizations sponsoring the rally seek to educate and empower youth.

Paddle for the Presidency started with an idea and a Web page, co-founder Doug Vilsack said. Participants paddle down the Mississippi River, making stops along the way to encourage youth to vote.

The group began paddling June 1 at the Mississippi Headwaters and plans to complete its 2,500-mile trip in New Orleans on Aug. 21 or 22.

The group passes out folders asking youth to pledge that they will register 10 of their friends to vote.

Mobilizing America’s Youth is touring across the country in two groups, following separate northern and southern routes.

Carrying a small band of activists from Berkeley, Calif. to Washington, D.C., Mobilizing America’s Youth displays the “Youthsonian,” a project that highlights youth movements in the United States.

“Young people just need to see something like this,” said group member Scott Beale. “I think we’re waiting for someone to empower us.”