Voter event rallies students

Many candidates running for office this fall attended Tuesday’s Voterpalooza, which registered a record number of student voters.

Kevin Karner

A volunteer dressed as Uncle Sam drove a streamer-adorned golf cart along the Northrop Mall walkway, sifting through the typical mass of students traversing the square Tuesday morning.

In front of Northrop Auditorium, students munched on pizza and waited in line for a bounce house.

“We just had a class and saw the bouncy thing, so we had to come over,” chemical engineering freshman Leyla Soykan said.

That was the idea behind Voterpalooza, an event that sought to use free food and entertainment to register student voters — a demographic that turns out in notably low numbers during elections. This year’s event drew many major party candidates running for state and federal offices and registered the highest number of students in its three-year history.

“We’re here to inform students about their options with voting or banking. We don’t care who you vote for, just that you vote,” said sophomore Grace Erpenbach, a volunteer with the Minnesota Public Interest Research Group, which helped sponsor the event.

The Minnesota Student Association led the event for its third consecutive year, and volunteers registered about 400 students in about four hours.

“There’s little details that don’t always work out, but I think overall people were pretty satisfied,” said Kristen Anderson, MSA legislative staff member.

Voterpalooza featured an assortment of candidates running for office this fall. While organizers weren’t able to coordinate debates this year, many candidates stopped by to hand out campaign literature and meet students.

“I’m glad to be back at my alma mater,” said Doug Daggett, who’s running against U.S. House Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., in November’s election.

Both Ellison and Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., attended the event to meet with students, although Franken had previously declined MSA’s invitation to debate during the event.

In lieu of a debate, Mike McFadden, the Republican candidate challenging Franken for the U.S. Senate, responded to questions from students in Coffman Union’s President’s Room at 4 p.m.

“Students matter,” MSA’s Anderson said, adding that she was excited many candidates came out to interact with students. “We would’ve liked to have had all candidates here.”

Three Minneapolis City Council members also stopped by to support the event, including Ward 3 Councilman Jacob Frey and Ward 2 Councilman Cam Gordon. Neither have their seats at stake in the upcoming election, but both represent the University area.

While students said the fun and games were great, some said the event’s timing could have been better to boost student attendance.

“There’s no good time to host it, when you think about it,” said Matt Boelke, president of the University’s College Republicans. “I think the afternoons would have been better, since people tend to take more morning classes.”

While the event promotes registration, students are not limited to voting in Minneapolis. Erpenbach noted that while she plans to vote in Minneapolis this year, she has previously voted absentee in Sioux Falls, S.D., even as a University student.

Anderson said the first time she ever registered to vote was at last year’s Voterpalooza.

“We want people to have some fun and think about voting,” she said, “and maybe sign a pledge card.”