Minnesota voting provisions simplify process for students

by George Fairbanks

With the Nov. 7 election looming, University students are beginning to consider where and even how to vote.
Unnecessary problems arise for inexperienced voters on election day when they show up at the wrong polling station or arrive without identification.
Susanne Griffin, director of the Minneapolis Office of Elections, said the most routine problems occur when people fail to pre-register and have no proof of identification.
To register, voters need a picture ID and a utility bill with a current address less than 30 days old. The bill must have the voter’s name on it.
A registered voter from the district can also vouch for a person attempting to vote in a district for the first time.
Secretary of State Mary Kiffmeyer stresses that the easiest route is to simply pre-register. Pre-registration can be done at the Secretary’s Web site.
Another viable option University students may want to consider is voting by absentee ballot. The ballots are available at the auditor’s office in each Minnesota county.
“I hear all the time that students are worried about where to vote,” Kiffmeyer said.
The ballot will be sent to the voter’s current address. The only stipulation with the absentee ballot is it must be witnessed and signed by another person who is a registered Minnesota voter.
“The absentee ballot can also be filled out at the County Auditor’s Office,” Kiffmeyer said. The absentee ballot must be filled out in person 30 days before the election.
The absentee ballot is an option for students worried they aren’t as familiar with people running in the University’s district.
Additionally, Kiffmeyer’s office has heard complaints that some permanent residents dislike part-time residents like students voting in the district. The absentee ballot serves to solve that potential dilemma.
In an effort to try to solve some of the registration confusion, Kiffmeyer’s office has released a series of four public service announcements. The announcements will attempt to educate the public to all available options on election day.
Griffin explained Hennepin County registration cards can be picked up at libraries, any county administration building, and police and fire departments.
The signature on the registration card is considered an oath and persons committing voter fraud can be charged with a crime, fined or have the voting rights revoked.
“Minnesota is probably the easiest state in the nation to vote in,” Kiffmeyer said. She noted some states require voters to be pre-registered up to three weeks before the election.
The easy registration process helps explain why Minnesota is continually near the top nationally in voter turnout for general elections.
University students may also be able to gain quick cash by serving as an election judge. People can earn up to $7.21 an hour working at a polling place doing several different tasks.
“We always need election judges,” said Hennepin County Public Relations and Training Coordinator Judy Schwartau. She added during the upcoming election that the county will need 2,000 election judges.
“(Recruiting judges) is going very well. We put inserts in water bills for all of Minneapolis,” Griffin said.
Unless voting absentee, the polls open at 7 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 7 and close at 8 p.m.

George Fairbanks welcomes comments at (612) 627-4070 x3221. He can also be reached at [email protected]