OUR OPINION: State, nation could learn from Minnesota elections

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 2, 2007

We could learn a lot from Minnesota when it comes to voting. During mid-term elections in 2004, they reached 64 percent turnout, which was 25 percent higher than the national average of 39 percent. In the 2004 presidential election, 76.8 percent of voters turned out to vote, as compared to 60.3 percent nationwide.

How do they do this? For one, the political environment in Minnesota is heavily split. They are a &8220;purple&8221; state. It&8217;s a roll of the dice with every election because political affiliation does not buy a candidate any votes.

That diversity helps to drive voters to the polls, and it forces candidates to find ways to turn out the vote.

But two other programs are also key to voter turnout.

First, Minnesota law allows for election day voter registration. That means that a person can register to vote at the precinct and then turn around and vote. According to proponents of election day voter registration, this program will increase voting turnout by as much as 15 percent.

The other program is a youth-voter program. The state sets up youth voting booths at the precincts where young people can vote.

This is a great idea. It encourages young people to vote, to take an interest in the political process. Furthermore, if young people get excited about voting, then most likely they will push their parents to vote as well.

These are two great programs that the Legislature should consider for the future.

Another idea to increase voter turnout and raise political activity would be to consider Saturday voting, which would have to be a Congressional act.

Or, both Congress and state legislatures across the nation could declare Election Day as a national and state holiday. This would encourage businesses to let their people off to go vote.

In the end, a democracy is only as strong as the people who participate in it. If we want to strengthen our state and nation, we seek ways to strengthen voter turnout and political awareness among the people.