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Early voting pop-up event aims to improve voting accessibility

Organizers provided busy students with convenient access to a voting site.
Image by Georgia Jensen
The Weisman Art Museum held an early-voting event on Nov. 2.

Minneapolis voters visited the University of Minnesota’s Weisman Art Museum on Halloween to vote in an early voting pop-up event ahead of the Nov. 7 election next Tuesday.

The event aimed to make voting more accessible to University students and the greater Minneapolis community. It was a collaboration between the University’s Undergraduate Student Government (USG), the Secretary of State’s office and the City of Minneapolis’ election team.

Katie Smithberg, USG’s Government and Legislative Affairs (GLA) local government coordinator, said the event was made possible by several new Minnesota state laws, which took effect in July, that provide greater flexibility on when and where Minnesotans can vote.

The new laws included expanding the right to be absent from work to vote anytime during the absentee voting period, extending the deadline for all absentee and mail-in ballots and allowing voters to sign in electronically, according to the Minnesota Secretary of State, Steve Simon.

Young voters are statistically less likely to vote, Smithberg said. With this year’s ballot featuring less-publicized local elections like those for city officers, school board members, township officers and other local ballot questions, this low turnout is particularly relevant.

Abigail Boettcher, a University student who came in to vote, said voting in local elections is a great opportunity for young voters to learn how the voting process works.

“When it comes time to vote in bigger elections, then you know what you’re doing,” Boettcher said. “You’re not confused and you also know how to register.”

Smithberg said event organizers wanted the pop-up event to serve as an easily accessible opportunity for students to get out and vote. GLA diligently promoted the event across its social media and spread awareness through word of mouth, according to Smithberg.

In the event students missed the social media campaign, Smithberg said organizers hoped people passing by would see the “Vote Here” signs outside Weisman and stop in to cast a ballot, even if they did not know there was an election.

Smithberg added the voting site’s convenience is specifically aimed at busy students.

“Many students have class all day, and then they have student groups or have jobs,” Smithberg said. “Having the opportunity for voting to be efficient, quick and right there is what students need.”

Volunteer Shae Horning said it is important to encourage people to vote, particularly in smaller elections.

“Local elections are so important,” Horning said. “The work that they do really impacts people’s everyday lives more than a lot of people I think realize.”

During last year’s elections, GLA helped organize Party to the Polls, an initiative offering University students free transportation to an early voting site in Minneapolis.

Smithberg said providing transportation was incredibly helpful to student voters, but students still found it difficult to find time in their days to make the trip off campus.

With this year’s early voting pop-up, Smithberg and other organizers wanted to provide student voters with a close and easily-accessible voting site, which they hoped would increase voter turnout.

Smithberg said the pop-up event was the latest in a series of GLA-sponsored events aimed to increase student voter turnout.

Voter Palooza, a collaborative effort between GLA and the Undergraduate Political Science Association (UPSA), was an event held before voter registration closed. At the event, Smithberg said GLA and UPSA members, as well as city election officials, were there to help students register to vote and answer general questions about the election.

Smithberg said this pop-up event was an opportunity to prove the effectiveness of having an on-campus voting site. If successful, GLA hopes to continue the event and move forward with improving voting accessibility.

“This isn’t the last of our efforts,” Smithberg said. We’re going to keep moving forward and create different opportunities to get people excited to vote.”

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