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Editorial Cartoon: Alabama and IVF
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Published March 1, 2024

Episode 103: Raising voter participation on campus

Reporters Stella Mehlhoff and Hana Ikramuddin meet with multiple student organizations to explore how University of Minnesota students are being rallied to vote in the 2022 midterm elections.
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INTRO MUSIC

STELLA MEHLHOFF: Hello, all. My name is Stella Mehlhoff.

HANA IKRAMUDDIN: And I’m Hana Ikramuddin, and you’re listening to In the Know, a podcast by the Minnesota Daily.

MEHLHOFF: Our aim is to explore a new aspect of the University of Minnesota’s students and communities with each episode. This week, ahead of the upcoming election, we’re focusing on student voting. We spoke to several people organizing voter registration efforts to discover what they are doing to get students engaged.

IKRAMUDDIN: The midterm election is set to take place on November 8th, and early voting started on September 23rd. The Star Tribune 2022 voter guide states that Minnesotans will be voting on the gubernatorial, state auditor, secretary of state, U.S house, Minnesota house, and Minnesota senate races.

MEHLHOFF: The Star Tribune includes public safety, school funding, climate change, the economy, gun control, and abortion access as important issues for this election.

IKRAMUDDIN: In recent elections, University of Minnesota students have had high voter turnout rates. According to the Undergraduate Student Government’s website, eight out of 10 University students voted in 2020.

To inspire their peers, Andy Warriner, the advocacy director for Mi Gente, the Latinx student cultural center, organized a voter registration event that featured a documentary screening. Warriner told us what’s at stake for them.

ANDY WARRINER: Everything. Um, I think for me, the biggest thing as someone who has a uterus, with Roe v Wade being overturned and it being left up to the states, Minnesota is a safe state. Accessibility is still a thing here for abortions and health care like that, however, if we elect a governor whot is not in support of it, there it goes.

IKRAMUDDIN: We attempted to contact the College Republicans at the University, but received no reply.

MEHLHOFF: Another effort to get students out to vote is the Undergraduate Student Government, also called USG, non-partisan voting program. The program is operated by 15 paid voting officers who table, door knock, and encourage student groups to reach out to their members. USG calls this program Row the Vote. One voting captain, Maddie Robinson, joined Row the Vote this year and has helped register students as part of a class visit campaign which has helped get over 2,000 students registered.

MADDIE ROBINSON: Yeah, so I remember in high school, I’m really young for my grade, my birthday’s in summer so I missed the vote, the elections by a lot my senior year. But I had quite a few friends that were able to vote and quite a few of them didn’t vote, and I remember I was really frustrated with that.

IKRAMUDDIN: Robinson says it’s important for students and younger generations to shape politics.

ROBINSON: And if we don’t go out and vote, we don’t have any say in what politics are going to look like, what our lives are going to look like, so ultimately it’s just really important that we get out and make our voice heard and kind of vote and say, “this is what we want.”

MEHLHOFF: USG began Row the Vote in 2020. With many students off of campus, student leaders were hoping to get students registered and engaged with the election. Rose Lloyd-Slifken helped start the effort.

ROSE LLOYD-SLIFKIN: We used to do tabling, We couldn’t do tabling. We used to knock on doors, we couldn’t knock on doors. There were so many factors that were limiting to our voter outreach plan from student government’s perspective.

MEHLHOFF: Limited due to Covid-19 safety protocols, Lloyd-Slifkin and other USG officers devised alternative ways to increase student voter turnout.

LLOYD-SLIFKIN: You know, I was just thinking about ways that we could energize students and really just kind of reinvigorate the program and make sure that even though we weren’t gonna have that face to face contact, that we could still um, reach as many students as possible.

IKRAMUDDIN: Organizers have said that a less traditional voter registration approach has been helpful. For Row the Vote, this takes the form of Voter Palooza, an event USG advertises on their website. From October 24th to the 28th Row the Vote will offer rides from party buses and limos to early voting polling sites, said Carter Yost, Government & Legislative Affairs Director with USG and organizer for Row the Vote.

CARTER YOST: And I think we hear, the thing I hear most often for people that are registering or whatever, it’s like, “oh this something I’ve been meaning to do for a long time, and I, I’d either been putting it off or I just kept forgetting or whatever.” Um and so part of what Row the Vote is doing is just sort of getting in front of people directly, right?

YOST: And just getting it in front of someone and, and you know, putting the pen in their hand and being able to say like, “here’s what you need to know,” I think has been really helpful and really effective.

MEHLHOFF: Carlo Franco, the chair of Movimiento, the latinx DFL caucus, has also tried to make voter registration more fun on a state-wide level by holding pop-up events and inviting local elected officials.

CARLO FRANCO: But like more personable, right? Like where we get to like kinda let loose a little bit and have, uh, you know, with music and food, and that just gives a different energy to just community.

IKRAMUDDIN: Despite these efforts to get people excited about politics, there are still barriers to getting registered. Lloyd-Slifkin spoke about the particular challenges that students face before they get to their polling station.

LLOYD-SLIFKIN: Time. Students, students are busy. Students work jobs. Students have a lot of, you know, commitments. They’re involved in activities, and they have classes and homework and stress and a million other things.

MEHLHOFF: Cheniqua Johnson, the DFL state outreach and inclusion organizer, also acknowledged how politics can make students and non-students alike feel confused.

CHENIQUA JOHNSON: But all in all, it’s language, right? I think in different spaces, whether you’re an native english speaker or not, um, the language of policy and the language of politics can sometimes feel very insular and not necessarily always understanding like, what is that person saying?

MEHLHOFF: Warriner suggested other reasons that they think students might be less likely to participate in elections.

WARRINER: I heard from students, um, that they don’t wanna vote because our system has failed us, and I get it. So I think that’s a barrier, is just the lack of wanting to vote, which I understand because we’ve faced so much and had so much taken away from us that it feels like our vote doesn’t matter.

MEHLHOFF: But Franco encourages potential voters to engage, regardless of the challenges.

FRANCO: So this is me inviting everybody to openly participate in politics, Um, whether it is just as a supporter to knock some doors, like this is an invitation that I know everybody’s waiting for, but this is it. Let’s do it, and it’s a lot easier than you think.

IKRAMUDDIN: When asked if they had anything else to say, Warriner and Robinson offered the same advice.

ROBINSON: Go vote. That’s it. Go vote midterms November 8th.

WARRINER: Go vote for the love of god.

IKRAMUDDIN: This episode of In The Know was written by Stella Mehlhoff and Hana Ikramuddin, and it was produced by Abbey Machtig and Alberto Gomez. For questions, comments, and concerns, make sure to email us at [email protected].

MEHLHOFF: Thank you for listening. We’re glad you’re tuning in this fall. Don’t forget to like and rate In the Know wherever you get your podcasts. I’m Stella Mehlhoff.

IKRAMUDDIN: And I’m Hana Ikramuddin, and this is In The Know.

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