Sen. Tina Smith holds rally with college students to discuss voter turnout

UMN College Democrats discussed current political concerns and the importance of mobilizing youth voters with area representatives.

Tina+Smith+hugs+a+supporter+during+the+DFL+election+party+in+Saint+Paul+on+Tuesday%2C+Nov.+6%2C+2018.

Will Tooke

Tina Smith hugs a supporter during the DFL election party in Saint Paul on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018.

Lydia Morrell, City Reporter

Sen. Tina Smith and other representatives met with college students to emphasize the importance of voting on Tuesday at Newell Park in St. Paul.

Student Democrats from four Twin Cities universities had a socially distant rally in the park with a panel of political representatives, including State Rep. Dave Pinto, State Senate candidate Erin Murphy, Ramsey County Commissioner Trista MatasCastillo and St. Paul School Board member Chauntyll Allen. Speakers emphasized the importance of voting and mobilizing other voters.

“[College students] have the capacity by using their voices and this election to change the direction of this country,” Smith said. “I hope that they also will understand that their power is not just in the voting booth, but it is in influencing elected officials like me and all the local officials that we heard today also.”

Student representatives came from the University of St. Thomas, Hamline University, Macalester College and the University of Minnesota. About 25 people attended the rally.

The University’s College Democrats secretary, Tessa Simon, said the group’s members connect with political candidates as surrogates for the broader student population.

“Since we get people from campus coming to our meetings, we can carry on [Smith’s] message better once we know exactly what she’s about,” Simon said.

Smith addressed topics such as the current Supreme Court hearings, women’s reproductive rights and student loans, but she mostly focused on voter turnout. She said that people are worried about the anxiety created by the president and her Republican opponent, Jason Lewis.

“But, you all, worried is not a strategy,” Smith said. “Organizing is a strategy. Voting is a strategy.”

College Democrats President Claire Anderson said members have conducted phone and text banking on behalf of Democratic candidates, like Ann Johnson Stewart and Bonnie Westlin in nearby suburbs, in hopes of flipping the State Senate. They have partnered with the Sister District Project, which aims to flip swing districts to advance progressive policy, Students for Biden and other organizations to get volunteers to make campaign calls.

While the group has kept outreach interactions virtual, Simon said members also chalked sidewalks around the University to try to get the attention of first-time voters and uninvolved students.

“I think a lot of times our political system is designed to make individuals feel powerless,” Simon said. “But when I’m working for candidates like Tina or other candidates, it becomes very apparent that an individual can do so much, like they can have so much impact.”