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Ritchie to urge student vote on Wednesday

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Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, as part of a statewide campus tour, will urge student voting Wednesday at Bemidji State University.

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Ritchie will hold a voter education and outreach session for students 6-7 p.m. in the BSU Hobson Union, a session open to the public.

"Democracy and You" is the title of his remarks, as he pushes voter registration and voting for students in this year's elections.

To accommodate absentee balloting by overseas military, the 2010 Legislature moved up the traditional September primary election to Aug. 10 this year. Winners advance to the Nov. 2 general election.

Headlining the Minnesota ticket is the race for governor, and also U.S. House seats. State constitutional officers, including Ritchie, will be on the ballot. All 201 seats of the Minnesota Legislature are up as well. Local city and county elections will also be on the ballot.

Ritchie will speak to the importance of voter participation, explain legislative changes to election law that impact students, and encourage them to become election judges. Office staff will accompany Secretary Ritchie to assist students interested in registering to vote and answer questions about voting.

"The Office of the Secretary of State recognizes that eligible voters, ages 18-24, tend to vote at a lower rate than any other voting-age group," said a statement from the office. "In 2008, an additional 7 million votes could have been cast nationwide had eligible voters under the age of 30 participated at a rate equal to that of other age groups.

"Minnesota voters age 30 and younger have an opportunity this year to increase voter turnout by over 100,000 votes if they participate at rates equal to other voters," it said.

Among changes made this year by the Legislature are ways to increase tracking of absentee ballots and to inform voters if their absentee ballot has been rejected. A measure to call for a photo ID to vote was defeated.

"I join local election officials in thanking the governor for signing our proposed election reforms this year," Ritchie said earlier this month. "These measures will help streamline election administration and reduce costs to local governments while enhancing the integrity of our system.

"Minnesota has long been a leader in elections," he said. "As secretary of state, I look forward to working with local election officials and legislators to continue to find innovative ways to improve how we administer our elections."

Ritchie, a Democrat, is teaming up with colleges and universities this month to organize non-partisan voter education and outreach events to students.

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