Secretary of State stops at U to register voters

Daydesk

Mark Riche - Secretary of State

Matt Mead

Daydesk Mark Riche – Secretary of State

Young voters have been notoriously absent from the polls on Election Days past. But this year, Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie is set on continuing a budding trend of civic activity from the youngest set of the electorate. âÄúWeâÄôre in an uphill spiral of young people being active and interested,âÄù he said. âÄúI believe thatâÄôs a long-term process.âÄù ThatâÄôs why heâÄôs touring college campuses across the state, voter outreach workers from his office in tow, to register as many eligible young people as he can before Nov. 4 âÄî Election Day. RitchieâÄôs office joined up with the Minnesota Student Association outside Coffman Union in a nonpartisan effort Monday morning to register about 70 student-voters . Hundreds have registered at similar events on other campuses. But at the University, student groups, including MSA, have been offering voter-registration help for months, MSA Legislative Affairs Chair Alicia Smith said. âÄúThis is the most important election of our generationâÄôs lives,âÄù she said. âÄúItâÄôs really important that politicians know that students are a powerful voter bloc.âÄù The student government organization also plans to shuttle students to polling places using its MSA Express van, typically used to safely and soberly drive students home on weekend nights. Phil Rooney , a 2007 University alumnus, has spent the election season as one of RitchieâÄôs voter outreach workers. College students tend to be a demographic that doesnâÄôt pre-register to vote, he said. And while voters can register on Election Day, lines can be long âÄî driving busy student-voters away from the polls. The outreach work is also important because, given the movement toward young people being engaged in politics, especially in this yearâÄôs landmark presidential election, eligible voters arenâÄôt always set to go. âÄúWe canâÄôt be presumptuous,âÄù outreach worker Jewelean Jackson said. âÄúWe have to keep asking that question: Are you registered to vote?âÄù A longtime election judge, Jackson said sheâÄôs seen a swelling of enthusiasm for voting this year. âÄúItâÄôs exciting, itâÄôs historical,âÄù she said. âÄúThatâÄôs what it is.âÄù That could also mean long lines, not only to register, but to cast a ballot too. Jackson suggested bringing a book. Ritchie recommended students with packed Tuesday schedules vote using an absentee ballot ahead of time to lessen polling-place congestion. âÄúEveryone who votes absentee is a vote that is counted,âÄù Ritchie said. Absentee ballots can be mailed in or cast prior to Election Day in person at county auditorsâÄô and city clerksâÄô offices. But whatever way their votes make it to the final tally, Ritchie said itâÄôs important that young votersâÄô voices are heard. ItâÄôs the only way politicians will feel pressure to address the issues that matter to the younger set, he said, which has happened as candidates have dealt with higher education issues in this yearâÄôs campaigns. âÄú[Young voters] are like a giant tsunami coming in,âÄù Ritchie said, âÄúand changing the waves of the political sea.âÄù