Expecting high turnout, but taking no chances

Nonprofits help voters get to the polls

Even in a state that leads the nation in voter turnout, and a part of Minneapolis with very high voter participation numbers, various groups were working in the weeks before Election Day to make sure Southwest voters turned out at the polls.

Need a ride to your polling place? Head to the Uptown YWCA, where vans will be waiting to give voters a ride.

Director of Racial Justice and Public Policy Anita Patel said all of the city’s YWCA fitness centers would be offering the service, part of a larger Nov. 4 transportation effort coordinated by the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits.

“We know people in Southwest are so motivated to get out, but we can’t take that for granted,” Patel said.

The YWCA and other nonprofits also planned phone banks and door-knocking campaigns to spread information to voters.

The Minnesota Secretary of State’s Office reported in September that voter registration numbers had reached an all-time high. That led Secretary of State Mark Ritchie to predict Minnesota could exceed 80 percent turnout among eligible voters, breaking its nation-leading turnout record.

In recent elections, Southwest precincts have had the highest — and some of the lowest — voter turnout rates in the city.

The eastern half of the Lynnhurst neighborhood boasted an 86 percent voter turnout rate in 2004. That was the highest turnout rate in the city, far above the 70 percent voter turnout rate for Minneapolis that year.

Precincts in Bryn Mawr, Kenwood, Linden Hills, Armatage, Kenny, Kingfield, Tangletown and Windom also had turnout rates at or above 80 percent in 2004.

But turnout rates dropped closer to Downtown. Sections of Whittier had turnout rates in the 50-percent range in 2004, placing them on a list of the 50 state precincts with the lowest voter turnout.

That was well below statewide voter turnout, estimated at 77 percent that year.

Brad Neuhauser, who maps voter information for the Minnesota Secretary of State’s office, cautioned against drawing a direct comparison between the city and state numbers, which rely on different data for their estimates. Still, the difference highlights areas of concern for get out the vote efforts.

Minnesota Participation Project Coordinator Maureen Ramirez said nonprofits across the state were targeting low-income areas in their nonpartisan get out the vote efforts.

League of Women Voters of Minneapolis focused voter registration efforts on North and South Minneapolis neighborhoods closest to Downtown. Executive Director Lonni McCauley said areas of elevated poverty “go hand in hand” with low voter turnout rates.

Patel said nonprofits’ work was made easier by the widespread excitement for this year’s election.

“Each voice and each vote is going to make a huge difference this year,” she said. “I think we all know that.”

Election Day basics

Date: Tuesday, Nov. 4

Polls open: 7 a.m.–8 p.m.

To find your polling place, registration information and to see a sample ballot, among other Election Day information, go to the City of Minneapolis 2008 Election information page at www.ci.minneapolis.mn.us/elections/

Minneapolis voters will cast votes for federal, state, county and local school board offices. A proposed state constitutional amendment that would dedicate funding to protect the state waterways, wildlife and natural areas and two Minneapolis School Board questions also appear on the ballot.

City residents can vote if they are at least 18 years old, are a U.S. citizen and have lived in the state for at least 20 days before election day. Voters in line at 8 p.m. will be allowed to vote. Bring state-approved ID to the polls.

A record turnout is predicted, so voters are encouraged to be sure to allow themselves plenty of time at the polls.

(Note: The Journal 2008 Voter’s Guide was featured in our Oct. 20–Nov. 2 issue)