The League of Women Voters isn't wasting any time when it comes to registering and educating voters in Duluth.

  With only one month until the primary elections, the 130 members of the nonpartisan organization have been busy coordinating voter registration efforts.

Newsletter signup for email alerts

The League of Women Voters Co-President Gail Shoenfelder is on the elections committee and is coordinating different voter registration opportunities for people.

She said getting people excited to vote in the general election is the same as getting people excited about the primary elections.

"Basically, it's the same reasoning that it is important to vote in the primary, because there may be someone you'd like to see in the general election," said Shoenfelder. "If you don't vote for that person (in the primary) you won't have a choice in the general election."

In the primary election on Sept. 14, St. Louis County voters will be narrowing the candidate selection in the race for county commissioner for Districts 1, 2, 5 and 6, as well as the race for State Representative District 5B.

Registering people out in the community to vote has been a successful experience for the league.

At the Juneteenth event, the league registered 50 people.

At the CHUM (Churches United in Ministry) National Night Out celebration last week, Shoenfelder registered 21 people to vote.

"Most people said they were already registered," said Shoenfelder. "The people who did register were quite motivated and interested in turning out to vote."

Iver Bogen attended the CHUM National Night Out party, and although he is already registered to vote, he said he appreciates what organizations like the League of Women Voters do.

"It's important in the sense that it calls attention to the idea of registering to vote," Bogen said.

The League of Women Voters encourages everyone to register to vote but makes special accommodations to target groups who are usually no-shows at the polls.

"We're directing our efforts toward low-income people because they tend to have low voter turnout, but they are just as impacted by the decisions of our leaders as much as everyone else in the country," said Shoenfelder. "They do have a stake in who gets elected."

Shoenfelder said several agencies who serve low-income people have asked the League of Women Voters to stop by and register people to vote.

Chris Parker, a relatively new member of the League of Women Voters, moved to Duluth three months ago. As the voter service chair, she said she's noticed the appreciation people have for the services organizations like the league offer.

"People with questions are glad to have a nonpartisan group to talk to to figure out voting issues," Parker said.

Gail Shoenfelder and other league members are also looking at ways to recruit first-time voters, especially high school seniors who will turn 18 before election time.

"If we get them out right away, it can become a lifetime habit," said Shoenfelder.

The League is also looking into encouraging voters from college campuses and training programs like beauty schools and tech schools.

On Sept. 1, several members of the league will be at Younkers department store at the Miller Hill Mall aiming their voter registration initiative at senior citizens.

"The league does believe that our democracy works best when people are involved in the government," said Shoenfelder. "The reason we think it's important to vote is because the decisions that elected officials make affect our lives. It's important to learn about candidates and issues to see which candidate best suits your interest."

The League of Women Voters will also be registering people at the Harvest Festival in September.

To follow up with the people the League registers to vote, people are asked to sign their name and phone number so the league can call them closer to election time to remind them to vote and offer them a ride to the polls.

Shoenfelder said about eight different groups are assisting with follow-up calls and transportation on election day, including the YWCA and CHUM who are donating the use of their vans to transport people to and from polling locations.

Working with other coalitions, the league hopes to organize candidate forums before the primary elections.

On Aug. 24, the league is cosponsoring a County Commissioner District 2 candidate forum at the Lakeside/Lester Park Community Club on 54th Street and Tioga Street.

Forums for the general elections are still in the planning stages.

Changes in the voter registration process in Minnesota include the addition of a person's drivers license number or the last four digits of their Social Security number. Shoenfelder said even if people don't have a driver's license or don't know their Social Security number, they can still vote by taking someone from their same precinct to the appropriate polling place on election day who can vouch for their residency.

"It's still possible for people to vote, but you kind of have to jump through the hoops," said Shoenfelder. "It makes it more difficult."

A Census Bureau report shows that voter registration efforts like the one organized by the League of Women Voters are working. Minnesota had the highest voter turnout in 2000 and 2002 in the nation, and 42.6 percent of people aged 18-24 voted, slightly higher than the overall national average.

To find out where to vote, who is on your primary ballot or to find out more information on voting in St. Louis County, visit http://www.sos.state.mn.us or call the League of Women Voters at 724-0132.

News to use

To vote in the primary election, you must be 18 years of age on or before Sept. 14, must have lived in the Minnesota for 20 days prior to the election and must have been a citizen for three months prior to the election.