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Voters head to polls for primaries

Some of the top issues among voters near the University of Minnesota campus on Tuesday were reproductive rights and public safety.
Image by Olivia Stevens
Voters went to Grace University Lutheran Church, among other polling places, to cast their votes for the 2022 primary election on Tuesday.

Community members near the University of Minnesota’s East and West Bank campuses went to the polls on Tuesday to cast their votes for the primary races. Voters said some of their top issues in this election are reproductive rights and public safety. 

Polls for the primary opened at 7 a.m. and close at 8 p.m. on Tuesday. Seats up for reelection include the U.S. 5th Congressional District, governor and lieutenant governor, secretary of state, attorney general and county sheriff. 

“Every vote counts,” Miranda Olson-Okonkwo, a 27-year-old Minneapolis resident, said while voting at the Van Cleve polling place. “Some people might not think [voting] matters in the grand scheme of things, but it does, especially when it comes to representatives.” 

Gov. Tim Walz, Secretary of State Steven Simon and Attorney General Keith Ellison are all running for reelection in the DFL primary. There is also a nonpartisan vote for county sheriff on this year’s ballot after Hennepin County Sheriff David Hutchinson announced a leave of absence in May after he crashed his county-owned SUV in December with a blood-alcohol level of 0.13%

The race that was on most voters’ minds and has garnered the most attention though is the DFL primary race for the 5th Congressional District. Five candidates are running, but most of the attention has been on incumbent Rep. Ilhan Omar and former Minneapolis City Council Member Don Samuels. Omar has been the district’s representative since 2019. 

Olson-Okonkwo said she is voting for Omar because she and her husband are trying to obtain a green card for him, and they’ve reached out to Omar’s office twice for help. 

“They’ve advocated for us twice, so we’re voting for her just because she’s helped us and we’ve seen direct results of her being in leadership and advocating for people,” Olson-Okonkwo said. 

Olson-Okonkwo said she is also supporting Walz because he issued an executive statement earlier this summer after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. In that statement, Walz said abortion will be protected in Minnesota under his leadership. 

“I’m out here solely because I’m voting for reproductive rights today,” Olson-Okonkwo said. “I have two kids, and I love kids, but abortion is healthcare, so I’m out here for reproductive rights.” 

Sarah Vadnais, a 22-year-old University graduate, said one of their top issues is also reproductive rights, along with climate issues and public safety. 

“It was important to me to reelect Ilhan Omar and also to vote for the attorney election,” Vadnais said. “With everything going on in our country that makes you feel kind of powerless [voting is] the one thing you can do.” 

Jakob Mcewan, a 21-year-old political science student at the University, said specific races that were most important to him were for governor and the 5th District, especially after the Court overturned Roe v. Wade. He said he also thinks COVID-19 is still an important issue. 

“I think [the primary] mostly just energized me to vote for some of the politicians that already represent me,” Mcewan said. “I’m feeling pretty represented right now.”

Not everyone supported the state’s current leaders though at the polls. 

“I just want a change,” Jaren Mills said. “[I’m] not happy with the current leadership.” 

Mills, a 23-year-old University alumni, said he has lived in Minneapolis for four years and is not happy with how the city has changed and become almost “unrecognizable” because of issues like increased crime. 

Mills said he wants to “get someone that is more in line with making this district better and making the state better.” Someone like Samuels. 

While Samuels and Omar both agree public safety is an issue and the city needs reform, they disagree on the specifics of how to address it. Omar supported replacing the Minneapolis Police Department with a new Department of Public Safety in November 2021. Samuels opposed that measure, which failed when it went to voters, and wants reform to happen within the existing police department.

Max Meyer, a 20-year-old University student, said “Ilhan keeping her seat is super important” after one of Samuels’ campaign supporters, Victor Martinez, said he is against abortion rights with exceptions for rape and incest. Samuels has maintained his support for abortion rights.  

Regardless of who they voted for, voters said they think voting in the primary is important. 

“Seeing what’s happened over the past couple years in terms of politics in general has really made me realize the need for people to actually get involved and contribute what they think should be happening,” Meyer said. “Especially if that’s not currently happening.” 


Bella Carpentier, Maia Irvin and Olivia Stevens contributed to this article.

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