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MN Youth Collective registering, educating voters at Carleton

<term elections quickly approaching, Minnesota Youth Collective is working hard to mobilize and educate voters on campus. Several Carleton students are serving as on-campus organizers and fellows for the recently founded statewide organization.

Minnesota Youth Collective is a St. Paul-based organization of young people, including numerous student representatives from across the state, empowering “the next generation of leaders to take our rightful seat at the decision-making table,” according to the organization’s website. It was founded in November 2017 by Emily Wellen and Rahhel Haile.

Bethany Bobo ’20, who works as Carleton campus organizer for the Youth Collective, first heard about the organization last spring, when a fellow student told her that the Youth Collective was looking to partner with student organizers on campus. The organization hoped to support leaders already in place on campus, said Bobo.

Bobo, who is one of the four co-founders of the Carls Talk Back movement, reached out to the Youth Collective and was offered a job at the end of April. She worked with the organization throughout most of the summer, and is continuing into the academic year. Alexis Tolbert ’20, another Carls Talk Back co-founder, is also involved with the Minnesota Youth Collective as Carleton’s campus fellow, according to the organization’s website.

“Coming back this school year, our main initiative has been voter registration, but with that deadline coming up on the 16th, we’re focusing more on voter education,” said Bobo. That deadline, which falls in less than a week, is the last day voters can register online or by mail.

Voters in Minnesota also have the option of same-day registration on Election Day on Tuesday, November 6. Because of this, Bobo reminded students not to fret if the October 16 deadline passes and they find themselves unregistered.

“Especially with a lot of freshmen from across the country, and this being their first time being able to vote, and this not being a presidential election, you don’t get a lot of exposure,” Bobo said.

The efforts to inform young voters have in part taken the form of a voter guide, which Bobo said details the issues people will find on the ballot and explains the platform and background of each candidate running on both the local and state level. She emphasized the shift into Minnesota Youth Collective’s voter education phase, which is especially important for those new to the electoral process.

“We’re here trying to get a lot of young people to vote,” Bobo said. “If you’ve never voted before, this is still a lot of new stuff, so it’s time to have voter education in accessible language.”

Rahhel Haile, program director for the Minnesota Youth Collective, reiterated the organization’s dual focus on both voter registration and education. “At Carleton (and other schools) we’re focusing on voter education after the pre-registration deadline, which is October 16th,” she said via email correspondence.

According to Haile, campus organizers like Bobo have identified that students on college campuses would welcome voter education outreach from the Youth Collective. “We’re coming out with a voter guide in the next couple weeks that we will be handing out on campuses all over the state,” she said.

The organization will also continue to hand out absentee voter forms, pledge people to vote, and help people create voting plans. Haile encouraged Carleton students to look out for voter education events on campus in the coming weeks.

Another on-campus endeavor advanced by the Youth Collective is something Bobo calls “Class Raps,” which stresses the role of students as educators. Interested students can volunteer to spend the first five minutes of their own class period talking about the organization and explaining where to vote, how to do it, and what’s at stake.

Speaking on the initiative, Bobo said, “It’s a more captive audience than tabling or canvassing. It’s a good ‘Why not?’ type of thing. If I’m tabling, you can walk away; if I’m canvassing, you can just ignore me. With Class Raps, you are here. It’s kind of an annoying way to get people to register to vote—annoying, yet effective.”

Bobo commented on the importance of Youth Collective’s efforts to increase voter turnout in the midterms, which typically see far fewer voters, especially young people, turn out than during presidential elections. “The voter registration/education push is big because it’s a big part of our democracy,” Bobo said. “It isn’t the only way to change the way the country is, but it’s a tool that we have that’s fairly accessible, especially for students at Carleton.”

“We’re privileged to be on a campus that promotes political awareness, and our voter poll is right across from the Weitz,” she added.

That polling location, the First United Church of Christ, sits just west of the Weitz Center and is where the vast majority of Carleton students can cast their ballot between 7:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. on November 6.

Key races and familiar names voters will see on the ballot include Angie Craig (DFL) up against incumbent Jason Lewis (GOP) for Minnesota District 2 U.S.

Representative, as well as Jeff Johnson (GOP) and Tim Walz (DFL) jockeying for the Minnesota governor’s seat. In addition, Republican Josh Gare and Democrat Todd Lippert are running for State Representative (District 20B).

In a race that has grabbed national attention particularly in the context of the #MeToo movement, Democrat Keith Ellison, a U.S. Representative who has been accused of physical and emotional abuse by a former girlfriend, is running against Republican Doug Wardlow for Minnesota Attorney General.

But whomever they vote for, Bobo said that every student has the critical opportunity to make a difference.

“That vote can change, especially in Minnesota, the way that we are able to do everything here. Not just to say that we registered this many people to vote, but to say that this many more people are eligible to change the country,” she said.

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