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City launching aggressive effort to increase voter turnout

Updated: March 29, 2016 - 1:22 pm

City elections staff are gearing up for the 2016 election season with ambitious goals to increase voter turnout and recruit a more diverse network of election judges.

A City Council committee has also authorized increasing the number of Minneapolis polling places to 132 from 125 to ease congestion on Election Day.

The city’s elections division will have up to five locations throughout the city for early voting.

During a presentation Tuesday, City Clerk Casey Carl noted that one in four American citizens eligible to vote are not registered — about 51 million people.

Carl and elections staff have a goal of “taking the ballot to the people” this election season.

He also noted that new research identifies the nation’s largest voting bloc (56 percent of the country’s voting eligible population) as people of color, unmarried women and millenials. However, voters in those demographic groups historically participate in elections at lower rates and are often not registered to vote.

To close that voting gap, city staff are participating in statewide efforts to engage with voters by providing regular reminders of upcoming election dates and opportunities to register before Election Day. Community liaisons will target communities that traditionally have had lower turnout rates, including communities of color, students, new citizens, renters, people with disabilities and the homeless.

The city also recently enacted an ordinance that requires landlords provide voter registration information to new tenants.

The city’s election division will also send a voter guide to every Minneapolis household with information about voting in the city and a sample ballot.

Early voting will also be encouraged to help prevent extra long lines on Election Day. People can vote by mail or in person for the Aug. 9 primary election from June 24 to Aug. 9 and then beginning Sept. 23 for the Nov. 8 general election.

Even with an increase of seven new polling places, Carl said the city is still near historic lows for the number of precincts and needs more given the growth in population.

In southwest Minneapolis where voter turnout is especially high, elections staff have proposed dividing four existing precincts into seven new precincts to help reduce long lines on Election Day.

The city will also be recruiting more than 2,500 election judges with an emphasis on people of color and judges who can also speak Spanish, Somali, Hmong and Oromo. The elections division has partnered with Intermedia Arts to develop a campaign and new video to encourage people to become involved in the elections process.

In addition to the presidential election, other offices that will appear on the ballot for Minneapolis voters include: U.S. Representative, Minnesota legislative seats, Minnesota Supreme Court and Minneapolis School Board (even districts and one at-large seat).

During the 2012 presidential election, Minneapolis had high turnout with 81 percent of eligible voters casting a ballot, according to a report to the City Council. All told, Minneapolis voters cast 215,806 ballots — the highest voter turnout in the city in nearly 40 years.

Turnout was highest in Ward 13 (southwest Minneapolis) with 88 percent of eligible voters participating.

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For more information about voting in Minneapolis, click here.