Minn. Democratic attorney general candidate Keith Ellison hosts roundtable event in Moorhead on voting rights
MOORHEAD — Congressman Keith Ellison, the Democratic candidate for Minnesota attorney general, held a roundtable discussion Tuesday, Oct. 9, on the campus of Minnesota State University Moorhead to discuss how to make voting in the state more fair and accessible to all.
Joining Ellison was Nate Aalgaard, executive director of the Freedom Resource Center for Independent Living, Mark Altenburg, Moorhead school board member, and a group of three students from Minnesota State University Moorhead.
Ellison said that "it is critical that Minnesotans understand their right to vote," and keyed in on how to go about removing existing barriers so all Minnesotans are able to exercise that right.
In order to vote in Minnesota elections, voters must register to do so either prior to — or on the day of — an election. Registration can be done in person, by mail, online, while applying for a driver's license or other identification card, on Election Day, or when casting an absentee ballot.
While the process of registering to vote may seem fairly simple, Ellison said that it's getting those who do register to actually get out to the voting booth.
"One of the biggest threats to the right to vote is not enough people exercise that right," Ellison said. "To that degree we have early voting, and we're trying to make it so more people can participate in this democracy."
William Hagen, organization officer for MSUM College Democrats, said that students used to be able to vote on campus, but after a Moorhead City Council decision, the on-campus polling location was taken away, making it more challenging for some students to vote.
Altenburg said that the solution to getting young voters to the polls should start in the classroom.
"What we need to do really is start in high school, and civics education needs to be a part of the curriculum," Altenburg said. "When we were in high school, government was required, and that was from the township level to the federal level."
Aalgaard, who advocates for the inclusion and equality of people with disabilities, said that voters who are disabled face a broad range of challenges on Election Day.
Among this issues, Aalgaard said, included parking not being laid out properly, entryways not being handicap-accessible, ballot machines not working properly, transportation and time of year.
One way to combat some of these issues, Ellison said, is by taking advantage of absentee voting. As of 2013, Minnesota has a no-excuse absentee voting policy, which means voters can vote before an election without providing a reason why. Previously, voters had to legally state that they would not be in their voting district on Election Day.
"The higher the voter turnout, the more responsive government is, the more government meets the needs of my people," Ellison said. "That's why I'm doing what I'm doing as Minnesota attorney general candidate."
Ellison is facing off against Republican attorney general candidate Doug Wardlow. The race is anticipated to be hotly contested, with recent polls showing Ellison having a slim lead over Wardlow.