Reaching for record-high voter turnout

Hamline Votes aims for 90% of Pipers to cast ballots in presidential election.

Kelly Holm, Senior Reporter

A year after Hamline received recognition for its highest-in-the-nation levels of student voter turnout in the 2018 midterm elections, Hamline Votes committee leader and Wesley Center assistant director Nur Mood is setting his sights even higher. 

With Nov. 3’s presidential election just six weeks away, Mood aspires for at least 90% of Pipers to cast ballots: a substantial increase from 2018’s turnout of 63% and the 2016 presidential election’s 69%. 

Hamline Votes is publicizing this goal with buttons and other marketing materials bearing the slogan “90/20,” with the 90 standing for the desired student turnout percentage, and the 20 for 2020.

“Talking to students [at the student organization fair], they all kind of wanted to know what the button meant, ‘cause it’s a little ambiguous,” said senior Nick Cobian, Hamline Votes’ student worker. “It was kind of exciting to see a lot of people get really excited, ‘cause voting this year is probably the most important that it has been in a lot of our lifetimes.”

Due to COVID-19 and social distancing measures, Hamline Votes is especially focusing on the promotion of absentee voting. 

In Minnesota, more than 100,000 absentee ballots were mailed out on Friday, Sept.18, the day early voting began in the state. Nearby Wisconsin just began the process as well, and Hamline Votes advises students to request absentee ballots as soon as possible. This can be done online through the Minnesota Secretary of State’s web page, or your home state’s equivalent.

“I encourage [students] not to wait until November,” Mood said, adding that it would be ideal to request an absentee ballot before September ends. 

Communications Specialist Christine Weeks, a Hamline Votes committee member, echoed this sentiment.

“It has been suggested that ballots be mailed by October 18,” Weeks said in an email interview. “Returned ballots must be postmarked on or before Election Day [Nov. 3] and received by your county within the next seven calendar days [Nov. 10].” 

If a Ramsey County resident does not wish to mail their absentee ballot, they can drop it off at the Ramsey County Elections Office. Protocol on non-mailing methods of ballot return will vary for residents of other counties. 

Out-of-state on-campus students may wish to register to vote in Minnesota instead of in their home state. Minnesota offers both online and in-print voter registration. In order to register as a Minnesota voter in-person on Election Day, a Piper must bring their student ID and proof of residency, such as a piece of mail addressed to them.

“The [nearest] polling station [at the Hamline Heights apartment building] already has all the Hamline students’ contact information, as long as they live on campus,” Mood said.

If a Hamline student lives across the street from campus on the Englewood or Snelling sides, their polling station will be different. Mood advised such students to register sooner than Election Day if they are interested in becoming a Minnesota voter.

Meanwhile, Hamline Votes is getting the word out through signage, virtual events with local legislators and social media. They are advising professors against scheduling exams or major due dates the week of Election Day, and hope to pop into classes, whether virtual or in person, to encourage civic participation. For in-person voters, committee members will lead groups of students down to the Hamline Heights on Nov. 3 so they do not have to walk alone.

“In order to get that goal of 90 [percent], I think we need collective support, collective work, from top to bottom… so we can lead the nation again, and get the highest student voter rate,” Mood said.