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Improving MN's Voting System

High and Low Education Voters' Turnout Similar when Government Registers Voters

educations effect on voter turnoutStudies in the United States and those comparing voter turnout in different countries conclude that voters' level of education influences their likelihood of voting when they are required to register.  A Wisconsin study summarizes that, "In study after study conducted over the last five decades, researchers find a robust relationship between individuals’ levels of education and their likelihood of voting."

"While only 51% of those with a junior high education reported that they had voted in the 2004 presidential election, 92% of the college educated did so" (Lewis-Beck et al. 2008, 102).  One of the reasons that researchers mention for this gap in voter turnout is that education makes it easier to navigate voter registration requirements and other obstacles to voting

A comparison across countries also found that the educational gap in voter turnout is greatly reduced when ballots are simple and voter registration is done by the state rather than initiated by the voter.  The United States where almost all states require the voter to initiate registration had the largest gap between those with more and those with less education.

Giving Government the Responsibility for Universal Voter Registration

A report written by Erin Sapp of Heartland Democracy recommends a universal voter registration system.  A 21st century voter registration system would place responsibility for ensuring maximal voter registration on the governmental agencies whose mission is to serve communities, voters, and a well functioning democracy.  States could use information from driver’s licenses, tax returns, and social service databases to register voters; offer pre-registration in high schools for students aged 16+; and update registries from change-of-address forms.  Implementing a system that moves toward universal voter registration would both ensure complete and clean rolls and foster participation by all eligible voters.

MN's Disproportionate Number of Disenfranchised Blacks

In Dorm Room Dealers: Drugs and the Privileges of Race and Class, A. Rafik Mohamed and Erik D. Fritsvold point out that the rate of illicit drug and substance use is lower among young black adults than among young white adults, 34% versus 39%.  This means there are there are about 5 million white 18-to-25 year olds who are regular illicit drug users compared to about 1 million black users.  Yet half the people in state prisons for drug use are black.  Dorm-room dealing is low-risk because white, middle-class youth are "anti-targets" in the "war on drugs." The authors explain that white dorm room dealers are invisible to law enforcement because they do not fit the image of a drug dealer, or their drug dealing is ignored by the college's authorities.  Young black men are much more subject to searches and consequently much more frequently arrested for possession of drugs.

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Give People Who Have Completed Prison Time the Right to Vote

Former Prisoner Confusion on Voting Eligibility

While former prisoners are allowed to vote in some states, in Minnesota, they are not allowed to vote until they complete their probation.  County attorneys report that some former prisoners do not realize that they are ineligible to vote.  At the same time, campaigners report meeting former prisoners who have completed their probation, but don't know that they can vote.  Some skip voting for many years before someone informs them that they are eligible to vote. 

Voting Rights Decrease Recidivism and Racial Disparity

Citizens for Election Integrity recommends that people who have completed their prison time be given the right to vote.  Their report reveals that the number of crimes classified as felonies, and therefore the number of felons, has skyrocketed in Minnesota in the last 35 years as it has in the rest of the nation.  The U.S. is now the nation with the largest percent of its population in prison.  As a result felon disenfranchisement has increased 775%. 

In the Citizens for Election Integrity Report, Kathy Bonnefield and Carol Johnson state that this change could decrease recidivism rates and would also decrease the racial disparity connected to felon disenfranchisement in Minnesota.

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In June 2012, Think Again MN launched a history series that examines politics and policy-making in Minnesota during the last century from the immediate post World War II years up through the 1990s. That era witnessed fierce legislative battles at the State Capitol but it was also a time of shared values that cut across partisan lines. 

Read about it here

MN's Leading Election System

MN's Leading Election System

With Secretary of State Steve Simon


steve simon


Listen to Secretary of State Steve Simon's excellent presentation on MN's outstanding election system emulated by many other states at the Think Again Brooklyns forum January 19, 2016.  Secretary Simon includes ways in which it can be improved, and he explains why it is important to vote.  He concludes with a quote from a tee shirt:  "Failure to vote is not an act of rebellion.  It is an act of surrender."

Get details on how to vote at

Oregon's Automatic Voter Registration

How Oregon Became the Easiest Place to Vote in the US

By Lornet Turnbull
YES! Magazine
October 8, 2016

In January, Oregon became the first state in the country to begin automatically registering eligible citizens to vote when they obtain or renew their driver's licenses or state IDs, completely shifting the burden of voter registration from the individual to the government. 

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