Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon visited SCSU on Monday, March 30, to get feedback from SCSU students, and to discuss how to increase voter participation and upcoming legislation that may help.
The discussion was focused on the issues of voting in a general bipartisan context, keeping the focus on increasing voter turnout in non-presidential elections. A variety of students attended the event, including representative from various student organizations.
“Throughout my time in the legislator, I was very active in, and involved in, elections issues,” Simon said after starting the discussion and giving students some background on his involvement with the issue. He was sworn into office this January.
One of the main responsibilities of the secretary of state is to be Minnesota’s chief elections administrator, overseeing the elections operations throughout the state.
In the last non-presidential election, voting participation decreased dramatically. The first question that Simon had for students was on how to improve voting conditions in the St. Cloud and Central-Minnesota region. Students and Simon went onto discuss numerous different reasons, ranging from disillusionment of the current government or lack of knowledge of the current voting laws.
One suggestion was that registration was preventing students from voting, which guided the discussion into the new legislation that the secretary of state is introducing. Simon is currently backing a bill that would allow voter pre-registration for high school students, so they could have easier accessing the voting polls once they turn 18.
The bipartisan bill that would make it available for high school students to pre-register is making its way through the Minnesota legislator.
In his discussion with students, Simon explained “pre-registration could increase young voter turnout from 8 to 13 percent,” based on recent studies. He also emphasized that states from both sides of the political spectrum have passed bills similar to the one in the legislator.
Simon discussed St. Cloud State’s involvement in the American Democracy Project with the students and faculty involved in the project. The American Democracy Project’s goal is to increase student participation in civic engagement, and SCSU is one of the 150 schools that participate in this project.
Simon said that SCSU’s participation in this project is another tool that can be used to make sure young students are engaged in our current political system, which could positively impact voting numbers in the future.
“I want to be open and accessible to you as I can be,” Secretary of State Simon said urging students to email or call him with comments, observations and proposals about voting issues. “Voter turnout is a issue that I am concerned about, and that our democracy is more legitimate with increased voter participation.”