An article in yesterday's Grand Rapids Herald Review, ICC Student Senate gets out the vote, and takes a stance on Voter ID, staff writer Nathan Bergstedt reports that Itasca Community College in Grand Rapids, the leading two-year campus for voter registration, has taken a "Vote No" stand on the voter restriction amendment.
The ICC student senate aggressively registered students to vote:
For their efforts, where they registered 25.9 percent of the entire student population to vote, the ICC Student Senate won the Voter Cup from the Minnesota State College Student Association (MSCSA) for registering the highest percentage of students, beating every other two year college in the state. They registered more than 400 students.
And the ideologically diverse student senate must have learned something about how voters work along the way. Bergstedt reports:
An officially non-partisan organization, with members who lean conservative as well as liberal, the primary function of the ICC Student Senate is to represent the best interest of student body. With that in mind, despite the overwhelming partisan split on the issue, the one issue the senate has decided to take a stance on is the Voter ID Amendment, with a unanimous vote taken just over a week ago to oppose the amendment.
“We feel it will affect the students. And that’s really the only reason why we can take a stance on it is because it will affect the students as a whole,” said Schoonmaker.
Because of the impending changes to absentee ballots, as well as the elimination of same-day registration, the students feel that it will make the initial voting experience of many college students much more difficult then it needs to be. This was in part because of the general feeling of disenfranchisement that many students feel already. Explaining how during the Get Out The Vote initiative that they all spoke with many students who felt that their vote didn’t matter anyway, Student Senators like Krueth and Schoonmaker are worried that the expanded difficultly in casting that first vote in a place other than their official home could prove extremely problematic for the next generation of civic-minded adults.
“If there was a higher percent of voter fraud, then we might agree with this kind of thing,” said Schoonmaker. “But just the fact that it’s so low; there was 113 cases in the 2008 election of voter fraud out of the 2.9 million who voted.”
“If it passes, it goes to the legislature, the legislature figures out the details. What are those details?” said Schoonmaker. “We don’t really get to vote on that. If it gets there and they decide that same-day registration just doesn’t work out, we’re going to lose lots and lots of voters, especially college students.”
The members of the ICC Student Senate also noted that Minnesota has ranked number one in voter turnout in the country ever since 1980, which was a source of pride for those who worked to get as many students registered as possible. The amendment being a measure that could drop the state from the no. 1 slot after so many years was yet another reason they felt they couldn’t support it.
A question every election is whether young people will vote in large numbers.
It generally does not happen.
But election watchers say two factors this year may change matters.
Many college students are interested in Minnesota’s two proposed constitutional amendments, with opponents claiming they have a lot of support from young voters who don’t like the proposed gay marriage ban or voter ID requirements.
The other factor some point to is the vastly increased social media use this campaign season.
“The social media itself is making a very dramatic claim of how many young people have taken a pledge to vote, how many young people have registered,” Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie said.
But, Ritchie added, there is no way to know if they actually will appear at the polls.
House Minority Leader Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, said he has seen plenty of college activity during his campaigning around the state.
“The campuses seem very organized,” he said.