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Ilhan Omar being interviewed in her office on Feb. 23, 2024. Omar sat down with The Minnesota Daily to discuss law enforcement, housing, drug addiction and student concerns.
Campaign Q&A with Ilhan Omar
Published February 25, 2024

Voters to mold local races

REDITOR’S NOTE: Look for a follow-up story Monday that will outline the issues and explain where people can vote in the primary elections.

Residents will decide Tuesday in a primary election which mayoral and city council candidates they want to appear on the general election ballot in November.

The two candidates who receive the most votes will advance to the mayoral races in Minneapolis and St. Paul and the city council elections in Minneapolis.

Students should learn about the candidates and vote because city officials make decisions that impact them, said Joanne Miller, a University political science professor.

“The pocketbook issues like tuition and fees are decided at the state level, but a lot of the day-to-day things are at the city level,” Miller said.

The Hennepin and Ramsey county smoking bans, bar closing times and renters’ rights are classic examples, she said.

The issue of an on-campus stadium also has citywide implications, Miller said.

“If the elected officials don’t see something as a priority, it becomes harder for it to advance at the state level,” she said.

Students can also show their support for lesser-known candidates or those from third parties at the primaries.

“(Primaries are) the gatekeeper election. If you do support a lesser-known candidate, or one that is not endorsed, it is the only way the person will get on the ballot,” Miller said.

Student groups on campus are doing what they can to encourage students to get involved in city elections.

The Minnesota Student Association is helping students register to vote, said Emily Serafy Cox, group president.

“We have been doing voter registration like last year for the national elections, but on a smaller scale,” Cox said.

MSA is focusing primarily on first-year students because most students who attended the University last year already registered to vote for the national elections, she said.

The student group will distribute information at tables in Coffman Union and in the dorms.

“The education aspect of it is huge. Most people don’t even know that they can vote in these elections, and that they are going on,” Cox said.

Following the primaries, MSA is planning a debate between the two mayoral and two City Council candidates from Ward 2 – the ward in which the Minneapolis campus is located. They will also give the candidates a questionnaire and publish the results.

“There is very little knowledge about the candidates and how they will affect students,” Cox said.

She said many University students are facing unsafe and expensive housing issues, and officials at the city level would have the power to help.

“There are many, many issues in terms of housing that directly affect students that the City Council have direct or indirect power over.”

MSA will not endorse any specific candidates, but some group members might come out in support of their favorites, Cox said.

Kent Ortner, Students Against Political Ignorance president, said his group won’t endorse anyone either, but will distribute leaflets demonstrating why it’s important for students to get involved in local politics.

“The policies that these people are going to make are going to directly affect students’ lives,” Ortner said.

Students who might become interested in politics in the future can also learn a lot from local elections, he said.

“It’s the best starting point for people who want to get involved in bigger politics eventually, because you learn how it works on a grassroots level,” Ortner said.

The best advice he said he can give to students is not to use “extremely bias media” when choosing a candidate.

“The far left and right are the worst sources of information; students should try to find the most objective source they can,” Ortner said.

Students should also pay attention to the materials that candidates distribute, because often in local elections, they state specific changes they would make if elected, he said.

Students can vote at a variety of polling locations on and off campus, based on the precinct they live in.

The general election will be Nov. 8.

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