Voter Registration Education

The historic nature of the upcoming election is undeniable. Considering the novel identities of the candidates, the exceptional duration of the campaigns and the pandemic sentiment of an imminent shift in the countryâÄôs image, it is unsurprising that the fervor associated with Nov. 4 is so great. This election presents a momentous opportunity for young people to engage in politics and raise awareness of vital, often overlooked issues. In fact, we hold the potential not only to decide this election, but to fundamentally alter the way the youth vote is factored into the radar of politicians and policy makers in future elections. The youth demographic is categorized as 18- to 29-year-olds, making young people about 30 percent of the voting bloc in Minnesota. Polls show that young people are predicted to turn out in large numbers in this election, but it is important that young people understand the rules for voter registration, the importance of education and what they need to know to vote on Election Day. Students can choose to vote in their hometown or at their college or university campus. If they choose to vote at home, they must request an absentee ballot, fill it out completely and submit it to the county clerkâÄôs office so that their home precinct receives it by Election Day. If students choose to vote at their campus residence, they must register at that address. This will not change permanent residence status or affect financial aid in any way. Contrary to popular belief, students living in campus housing are not automatically registered to vote. Colleges and universities can hand over on-campus housing rosters to campus polling locations so that students can use a university-issued I.D. to prove residence on campus, but students who fail to pre-register will still have to wait in line to register on Election Day. If students have moved since the last time they voted or registered to vote, they must re-register at their current address. This means that students must fill out a new registration card and turn it in. The pre-registration deadline is Tuesday, Oct. 14; students must fill out registration forms and submit them to the secretary of stateâÄôs office by 5 p.m. The Minnesota Public Interest Research Group is leading a statewide voter engagement campaign that has already registered more than 9,000 students to vote. At the University of Minnesota, MPIRG has teamed with the library system to offer voter registration to students. In addition, MPIRG has been tabling at various locations throughout campus and visiting classrooms to register students to vote. If students are interested in volunteering with the voter registration effort, they can attend an MPIRG meeting for further information and opportunities to get out the youth vote in unprecedented numbers. In the coming weeks, MPIRG, along with coalition partners, will be hosting candidate forums, issue forums, debates and presidential debate-watching parties on campus to help students get the information they need to make an informed decision on Election Day. We encourage students to attend these events and participate in civilized discourse about the election. Registering to vote and educating students about the candidates and the issues will help ensure that students and other young people play an increasingly powerful role in this election. Democracy works best when everyone participates, and young people asserting their power in this election will help politicians see that they can no longer ignore the concerns of Minnesota. Brittany Bump is the MPIRG Democracy Task Force leader. Please send comments to [email protected]