Landlords may provide voter registration

Councilman Jacob Frey said the plan could increase student voter turnout in neighborhoods with historically low rates.

Minneapolis City Councilman Jacob Frey speaks at a city council meeting at City Hall on Friday, July 10.

Daily File Photo

Minneapolis City Councilman Jacob Frey speaks at a city council meeting at City Hall on Friday, July 10.

by Benjamin Farniok

In an effort to persuade students to vote in local elections, Ward 3 City Councilman Jacob Frey is looking to University of Minnesota-area landlords for help. At a City Council meeting last week, Frey announced he will introduce a plan at the end of the month that would require landlords to hand out voter registration documents to residents when they move in. The idea aims to make voter registration easier for student renters and to increase the number of students turning out on Election Day. Frey said he hopes the ease of access to voter registration would make voting more appealing to students, which he said is a group that could hold a big chunk of political power in Minneapolis should voter turnout increase. âÄúLike going to a hotel with a mint on your pillow, you walk into your new apartment and you have got a voter [registration document] right there,âÄù he said. In the 2014 primary election, the University area and nearby neighborhoods Marcy Holmes and Southeast Como saw the lowest voter turnout in the city. University-area voting precincts in the Second and Third Wards saw only 0.69 percent and 3.27 percent voter turnout, respectively. Frey said low voter turnout in student-occupied areas tends to stem from a lack of knowledge about local elections and the candidates, adding that student populations are difficult to engage in politics. âÄúCampaigning in Dinkytown is like entering a land war with Asia âÄî you just donâÄôt do it.âÄù Frey said. He said he hopes his new plans will change student sentiment surrounding local elections. Early participation in politics can lead to a lifetime interest, Minnesota Public Interest Research Group executive director Ryan Kennedy said. Dinkytown Rentals, a University-area company that would be affected by FreyâÄôs proposal, already provides students with voter registration forms in their rental office, owner Tim Harmsen said. Should the proposal pass, Harmsen said he wouldnâÄôt have to make many changes, but smaller rental businesses may feel the extra strain. Though an extra burden, he said it is worth it if it means students are voting on Election Day. Frey said he wants to give landlords registration forms at the time of their annual license renewal to make the process easier. Sami Rahamim, a public and nonprofit management sophomore and a coordinator for the Minnesota Student AssociationâÄôs government and legislative affairs team, said the proposed plan will be a good way to get students to the polls. âÄúAnything we can do to make it easier, IâÄôm all for it,âÄù Rahamim said. Some members of City Council are supportive of the possible change, like Ward 1 City Councilman Kevin Reich, who said he likes to see new methods to increase voter turnout. Frey said he expects the proposal to pass at the full council meeting early next month.