BEMIDJI – One of the most powerful elected state officials shuffled around Hobson Memorial Union at Bemidji State University Tuesday morning, asking students if they were prepared for the upcoming elections.
“Are you registered to vote?” asked Secretary of State Mark Ritchie of passing students. If they answered in the affirmative, he extended a red sticker that declared “I will vote” and replied, “Wanna tell the world?” The voter registration rally Tuesday is part of a larger push to make sure Minnesotans are registered to vote before the Oct. 16 deadline. Otherwise, voters can still register on Election Day.
“Why should students register? Because it really matters,” Ritchie said. “A bunch of people fought and died for this right and it’s your opportunity to honor them by being part of the process.”
According to the Washington D.C.-based Campus Vote Project, more than 25 percent of college students said in 2010 “that they did not register to vote because they did not know where or how to register or they missed the deadline.” But, 87 percent of college students that did register actually voted.
Ritchie said young people typically vote 10 percent less than the average.
“But we’ve been making progress with the last three election cycles and I want to make even more progress,” Ritchie said.
Several students stopped by the registration table before the lunch rush Tuesday. Among them was senior Kristina Larson, who is voting for the first time away from her hometown of Morris, Minn.
“I just haven’t had time to go do it,” she said of registering. “I think it’s important to voice our opinion because we are the future.”
Dillon Loren, a junior at BSU and a member of the student senate, said some students may be apathetic to politics. But, he added, it’s important for them to take part in the process.
“A lot of people that I talk to, they feel like their vote doesn’t count as much,” he said. “I always recommend that they get informed about their candidate.”