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Voterpalooza aims to boost student voter registration

Minneapolis city candidates spoke with students in an effort to get over 60% of students to vote this November.
Image by Ethan Fine
The Voterpalooza event was held on the East Bank campus on Tuesday, Sept. 28. Students met local politicians and registered to vote.

University of Minnesota students registered to vote and met local politicians at the Voterpalooza event held Tuesday at three locations on the East Bank campus.

Minneapolis’ municipal election is Nov. 2, and the Minnesota Student Association (MSA) sought to make the student body aware and involved at its annual event. Students registered to vote at tables at Northrop, the Washington Avenue bridge and Superblock, with candidates speaking on stage outside of Northrop later in the day.

Volunteers gave out free shirts and candy while asking students if they were registered to vote. Students interested in registering could sign up on their phones with a code or on paper at the registration tables.

MSA President Abdulaziz Mohamed volunteered at the event, saying the goal was for students to “engage in the political process” and vote.

MSA has hosted Voterpalooza for over nine years, said Sabrina Egal, MSA’s deputy director of Government and Legislative Affairs. The pandemic prevented MSA from hosting the event in 2020, so volunteers were “anxious to get it done this year,” Mohamed said.

In 2018, the University was recognized nationally for high student voter turnout with almost 60% of students voting in the Minneapolis area.

Minneapolis mayoral candidate Sheila Nezhad spoke on stage about the importance of voting on political issues this year.

“I am running for mayor because I believe that the best solutions come from people who are leading change on the ground,” Nezhad said. “It’s so important that you vote this year.”

Grace Johnson, MSA Government and Legislative Affairs Director, said this year’s mayoral race will be a close one.

“A lot of students, especially given COVID-19, are here on campus in a new city for the first time,” Johnson said. “So it’s especially important to make sure everyone’s registered to vote at their current location because the results of this election are going to affect everyone who lives here whether they vote in it or not, and a lot of these races are looking to be pretty tight.”

However, this year’s ballot contains more than just elections for city candidates. Johnson spoke about ballot measures that would change the city’s public safety system and pass a rent control measure on to the city council.

“While mayoral or council elections will happen again within a set number of years in a term, these measures won’t come back on the ballot again until the city decides they can, so there’s only really one chance to vote on these,” Johnson said.

Historically, voter turnout among younger populations has been low. About 50% of people ages 18 to 29 voted in the 2020 presidential election, which was an 11% increase over the previous four years. In Minnesota, about 65% of people within that age range cast their ballots.

“We know that college students are statistically the least likely to vote, but we also know if we do the work of reaching out to and talking to people … about why their vote matters that they will,” Ward 3 Council Member Steve Fletcher said. “And I know from serving a community that includes the University community that students are also the best source of policy ideas.”

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