MINNEAPOLIS — Inside a packed auditorium at The Blake School Wednesday, Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon made his case to students there: Voting matters and they should start thinking about it now.
The choice of venue was intentional. Because of, 16- and 17-year-olds are eligible to pre-register to vote.
"That's an exciting opportunity for you to get in line and be part of the process earlier than you otherwise would have," Simon told students during a morning assembly.
The change means Minnesota joins 15 other states led by both Republicans and Democrats with similar policies and the hope is that getting teenagers engaged early will make voting a life-long habit in a state where voter turnout often tops the charts.
This fall, Simon has been making stops at schools across Minnesota encouraging teenagers to take that early step.
"Then without you having to do anything, think about anything, worry about anything, deal with any hassle, on your 18th birthday — boom — you will already and automatically be on the list so you can stroll into a polling place and then you can vote," he said.
At Blake Wednesday, students in between classes could pre-register with help from the League of Women Voters. The volunteers assisted them in the online sign-up and handed out red "I will vote" stickers that look like the ones voters receive at polling places after casting their ballots.
Many students were eager to do so.
"I just care about politics in general and I just think it's super important, honestly, to get young voters out to vote early," said Owen Bednar, 17. "It's a huge demographic becoming ever more important in every election."
For voters 18 to 28 during the 2022 midterm election, Minnesota ranked higher than other states for how many people in that age group voted with a turnout rate of 35.5%. Still, older Americans generally vote more often than younger Americans.
The pre-registration provision was part of a larger elections package dubbed thewhich implements automatic voter registration and creates a permanent absentee voter list so that voters on it will receive a mail-in ballot each election without requesting one.
The legislation also requires voting materials and sample ballots to be in languages other than English and prohibits voter intimidation at the polls.
"I'm excited to vote because it is a pretty tense political atmosphere right now and I do believe that everyone has that power to vote and your vote is important," said Mackenzie Higgins, who pre-registered on the eve of her 18th birthday, which is Thursday. "I think if people have the mindset of like, 'Oh my one vote doesn't matter.' Well, if everyone has that mindset then nothing's going to get done."
for more features.