Minnesota already has more than 3.1 million eligible residents registered to vote in the upcoming presidential election, with nearly 27,000 of those eligible voters signed up on September 23rd.  Minnesota’s Secretary of State Steve Simon attributes this record high number to three factors:

  1. The successful launch of a new Facebook tool that reminds users to register to vote.
  2. An increase in publicity ahead of the first presidential debate (held on September 26th).
  3. The recent numbers (27,000 eligible voters registering) coincide with the first day of no-excuses absentee voting.

Despite the initial number of registrants, the Minnesota Secretary of State’s office estimates that there are still 800,000 unregistered eligible voters.  Individual cities are coming up with ways on how to reach these unregistered voters.

Utility Bills to Encourage Customers to Vote

In an effort to assist the state of Minnesota in getting people to register to vote, the City of Duluth has announced that it will conduct a “get out the vote” outreach effort.  This outreach effort started a few days ago and involves sending approximately 30,000 utility customers a reminder to register and vote — in addition to their regular bills.

Proof of Residency

The reminder will outline many registration and voting rules, including the fact that registrants can use their utility bill as proof of residency. The fact that a utility bill can be used as a proof of residency document makes providing the reminder extremely useful for those who:

  • might be too busy to look up the information themselves
  • might not be exposed to other forms of media (encouraging them to vote)
  • have recently moved into the community

“Certainly we can’t change how people view our system,” Noah Hobbs, Duluth City Councilor said at a news conference at City Hall. “but we can make it easier to vote.”

Additional Voting Information

The utility bill voting reminder insert will include information on how to contact the city clerk’s office and where and how to register online (mnvotes.org).

Something relatively unique to the state of Minnesota is that it allows voters to register on voting day. So, if eligible voters forget to register, they can bring their utility bill to the voting booths and still have the opportunity to cast their ballot.  If a resident is going to be unavailable come Election Day, No-excuses absentee voting became available on September 23rd. This type of voting enables people to fill out an absentee ballot prior to the big day (November 8).

Minnesota Striving to Break Voting Records

Duluth isn’t the only city striving to get citizens to register and vote. The state of Minnesota itself has had a streak of 9 elections with the highest voter showing in the United States. However, in 2014, the state fell to number 6.

Many civil servants believe that Minnesotans can reach the number one spot again this year — if residents get out and vote. Initiatives like the one Duluth is launching will certainly help to achieve this goal. Hobbs also stated, “As a Duluthian, I feel that the more people we engage, the more people that vote, the more our communities reflect our values and our neighborhoods. Voting is a large component of how we as a government engage with our citizens on a day-to-day operation.”

During the same press conference, Duluth Human Rights Officer Carl Crawford expressed a hope that Duluth’s minority populations will consider registering to gain a strong turnout for this election saying, “Voting expresses your hopes, voices your opinions and allows you to stand up for what you believe in. By not voting, you are allowing others to speak for you. Silence and inaction can not be an option.”