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Brainerd Dispatch: Minnesota secretary of state talks voter turnout in Brainerd

April 28, 2016


Brainerd Dispatch: Minnesota secretary of state talks voter turnout in Brainerd
By Zach Kayser, 4/27/16

Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon met with Brainerd Community Action on Wednesday, brainstorming ways to increase local voter turnout.

The meeting was closed to the press but Simon gave an interview afterward. This election season, he aims to return Minnesota to the long pattern of leading the nation in voter turnout.

"For nine elections in a row, we were No. 1 in the country," he said. "That is just an amazing win streak."

However, the 2014 midterm elections saw Minnesota drop to sixth place nationally in turnout.

Simon's approach to reclaiming the top spot during the 2016 election has been oriented toward local action, he said, because local groups like Brainerd Community Action know best how to boost turnout in their own locales.

Simon said the key to improving turnout lay in presenting people basic information about voting, such as the fact that voters don't need an excuse to absentee vote, or that they can register online to vote.

In addition to spreading the word about how voting works, Simon's office has created several new programs that call people into action. The "Pledge and Reg" initiative will send voter registration kits to any organization of any size, which include voter registration forms, factsheets on how to vote and voter pledge forms.

Another target this year is increasing youth turnout, as a large part of the decline shown in 2014 was due to a drop in young people coming to vote, Simon said. New this year, the secretary of state's office is organizing a statewide mock presidential election for high schoolers to vote in during October, the month prior to the real election.

Brainerd High School was the first in the state to sign up, Simon said. As of Wednesday, 134 schools total had joined the program.

"It's not even summer yet," he said. "We expect that number to climb."

Visit www.sos.state.mn.us to learn more about voting in Minnesota.

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