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Registration for Trump's rally causing confusion

Donald Trump speaks at a rally at the Bong Airport in Superior in April 2016. Trump will speak in Duluth at the DECC on Wednesday, June 20. (News Tribune file photo)

Having tickets to President Donald Trump's campaign rally at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center Arena next week won't reserve you a spot inside.

So if you're hoping to see the commander in chief visit Duluth June 20, you'll want to get in line well ahead of the doors opening at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday.

"It doesn't guarantee you entry because there's only so many seats," said Minnesota GOP chairwoman Jennifer Carnahan.

While the Trump campaign has not informed DECC staff how many people will be allowed into the event, the DECC Arena's capacity is listed as 6,441, which includes both the stands and ground-level seating.

But issuing more tickets than seats is common.

In January 2016, Trump's campaign issued nearly 20,000 free tickets for a rally at the Flynn Center for the Performing Arts in Burlington, Vt., a venue that holds only 1,400 people, the Washington Post reported at the time.

Although tickets don't reserve a spot at the rally, and tickets to Trump's April 2016 rally in Superior were not even checked at the door, attendees still need to register at donaldjtrump.com before they enter, DECC executive director Chelly Townsend said.

Carnahan agreed.

"If you don't register, you can't get in," she said.

But the registration process has confused people wanting to attend the event.

Townsend said the DECC has been flooded with calls from people inquiring about tickets, but they're not handling any of that — that's the campaign's responsibility. Callers are being directed to donaldjtrump.com where they must submit their name, email, ZIP code, state and mobile phone number. A text message is then sent to the user for confirmation.

Since the event is free and tickets don't ensure a seat in the rally, some on social media are calling the registration process a scam to get people in the area to give up personal information and be added to the campaign's email and phone list.

Carnahan said that wasn't true, adding that users can opt out of additional emails and texts.

There is a checkbox users can uncheck if they don't want to receive emails, and the fine print on the bottom of the page offers guidance on the steps to prevent additional text messages: "By entering your mobile number you are agreeing to receive periodic text messages from Donald J. Trump for President, Inc. Message data rates may apply. Text 'STOP' to opt-out."

According to Larry Jacobs, a professor at the University of Minnesota's Humphrey School of Public Affairs in Minneapolis who studies American politics and elections, it's just one way campaigns are collecting digital information on voters. With cellphone and email contacts, the campaign can directly reach supporters.

"They're trying to build a database of supporters in the area," Jacobs said. "This'll be used for 2018, maybe 2020, to rally Trump voters. This has become a fairly standard technique — Obama has used it and other candidates have used it."

The Trump campaign did not respond to repeated requests for comment and clarification from the News Tribune.

'Open seat' protest likely won't work

When Trump's campaign announced the rally Monday, activists tried to reserve seats before Trump supporters. Their method, they said, would leave open seats in the arena and dwindle the crowd numbers.

One Facebook user wrote a post encouraging others to reserve tickets and not actually attend: "Two tickets per phone number (use a fake name and email address, but not obviously fake ones) ... tickets are free, and it only takes a second to reserve them. Wouldn't it be sad if there were hundreds and hundreds of empty seats?"

But with no cap on the number of tickets being distributed by the campaign, the campaign will let as many people as possible into the DECC Arena, Carnahan said.

"That's not going to happen," Carnahan said. "This event will be more than full."

Don't buy tickets — they're free

And then there are the scalpers.

Be on the lookout for anyone trying to sell tickets to Trump's rally. It's free and the campaign is willing to give out more tickets than seats — the event is on a first-come, first-served basis with no reserved seating.

On Craigslist, an ad lists tickets for $19.99.

"I don't know why anyone would go on Craigslist and buy a ticket when you can actually just register for free," Carnahan said. "To me that doesn't make any sense."

If you go

  • What: President Donald Trump's campaign rally
  • Where: DECC Arena, 350 Harbor Drive
  • When: Wednesday, June 20
  • 3:30 p.m. Rally guests begin to pass through security checks
  • 5:30 p.m. Speakers begin (speakers have not been announced)
  • 6:30 p.m. Trump speaks for approximately one hour
  • Register for free tickets at donaldjtrump.com.
Jimmy Lovrien

Jimmy Lovrien is a reporter for the Duluth News Tribune. He spent the summer of 2015 as an intern for the Duluth News Tribune and was hired full time in October 2017 as a reporter for the Weekly Observer. He also reported for the Lake County News-Chronicle in 2017-18. Lovrien grew up in Alexandria, Minn., but moved to Duluth in 2013 to attend The College of St. Scholastica. Lovrien graduated from St. Scholastica in 2017 with a bachelor's degree in English and history. He also spent a summer studying journalism at the University of California, Berkeley.

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