Voter registration ordinance passes

The City Council approved a measure requiring landlords to provide voter registration.

Councilman Jacob Frey during a council meeting on Friday at Minneapolis City Hall.

Councilman Jacob Frey during a council meeting on Friday at Minneapolis City Hall.

Erica Mahoney

When Andrew Degerstrom was a University of Minnesota student in 2009, he didn’t vote in that year’s elections because he didn’t know they were taking place. 
 
He said he probably would have voted if he had been given voter registration information when he moved to Minneapolis. 
 
Landlords will soon be required to provide their tenants with voter registration information when they move in under a new ordinance the Minneapolis City Council  passed last week. 
 
“If this ordinance had been in effect at that time, I would’ve received information on registering to vote when I moved in, and I most likely would have [voted],” said Degerstrom, who is the president of the East Isles Residents Association.
 
Degerstrom testified in support of the ordinance at a council committee meeting earlier this month. 
 
Though some support the measure as a way to increase voter turnout among the city’s renters, others say it could unnecessarily burden landlords with additional responsibilities. 
 
Ward 3 Councilman Jacob Frey, who first proposed the change, said he hopes to decrease barriers to voting, especially among younger voters. 
 
“The University especially is primed for additional voter engagement,” he said. “If we eliminate a couple of barriers such as voting registration, perhaps people will be more prompted to head out on Election Day.” 
 
In 2014’s primary election, the University area and nearby neighborhoods Marcy-Holmes and Southeast Como saw the lowest voter turnout in the city. Some University-area voting precincts in Ward 2 had a less than .70 percent turnout, while a nearby Ward 3 precinct had a 3.27 percent voter turnout.
 
Among householders under the age of 25, about 78 percent are renters, according to U.S. Census Bureau data and a Harvard University study. Voter turnout in the 18- to 24-year-old age group was less than 40 percent in 2012 — the lowest turnout of all age groups, according to census data.
 
Cecil Smith, owner of Cornerstone Property Professionals and a member of the Minnesota Multi Housing Association’s board of directors, said although he supports voter registration, he still opposes the ordinance.
 
“The precedent being set here is that landlords [can be] asked to serve as an agent to the government in an unrelated business purpose,” he said. “We need to be careful. …
 
Do we ask taxi drivers to start handing out chemical dependency information to inebriated passengers?”
 
The ordinance, which unanimously passed, goes into effect March 2016. 
 
“It’s a way for the city to achieve equity goals,” Degerstrom said. “It’s a vehicle for the government to be able to achieve some of its goals.”