Minneapolis Mayor starts voting drive to increase turnout

by Libby George

Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak launched Voting Power Twin Cities on Monday, a program designed to increase local voter turnout by 10 percent.

“Voter turnout in the primaries is the lowest it’s been in modern history, and we think it’s essential that people get out and vote,” said Lynn Nelson of the Institute on Race and Poverty.

The program is a partnership between several Minneapolis organizations, including the Minneapolis chapter of NAACP, the League of Women Voters of Minnesota and the University Law School’s Institute on Race and Poverty.

“All of the coalitions will do their own thing, but Voting Power is an awareness piece, and the overarching communication piece for the group,” Nelson said.

The group will launch an advertising campaign, headed by the Advertising Federation of Minnesota, and will seek pro bono work from other groups, as well as donations from private sources.

The initiative will address a participation survey that found that twice as many adults in suburban areas voted than those in inner-city areas.

Overall, 61.8 percent of adults in suburban areas voted compared to only 47.4 percent of adults in Minneapolis.

“Our initiative is really focused on urban voters. We feel urban residents face different challenges than our suburban counterparts,” Nelson said.

She said problems like low-income housing are often overlooked because those affected by the problem generally do not vote.

“It’s sad, but politicians pay attention to the problems of their main constituency, and low income people are not voting,” Nelson said.

According to the survey, the University campus also showed very low turnout.

“Students are extremely busy people, and don’t have a lot of time. Another thing is that they don’t know where to register,” Nelson said.

“We’d love to find sponsors that would get students to vote,” Nelson said.

Nelson said if restaurants like Chipotle would sponsor participation by giving away food for voting, students would be lined up around the block.

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