Yesterday, I had that great privilege of spending the day at the State Capitol with JCA’s Seeds of Justice fellows. We were there to support voter pre-registration, a bill the fellows have been working on all year that would boost youth voter turnout and civic engagement by allowing 16 and 17 year old Minnesotans to register to vote.
All year, I have been blown away by this incredible group of young people. They have shown over and over again what young people can accomplish when we trust them and let them lead. Yesterday was no exception. We had two committee hearings and a press conference for voter pre-registration—the first major day of action at the legislature on this bill—and the Seeds of Justice fellows made it all happen. They are working with youth from other communities to speak to the press, speaking to legislators, rallying their peers, and moving this legislation forward. Secretary of State Steve Simon acknowledged the work of these young people in his remarks at the press conference and in the hearings. He emphasized that this bill exists because young people have brought it forward, and other legislators picked up on this theme of youth leadership and engagement.
Representative Yvonne Selcer spoke in the House Government Operations and Elections committee about the ongoing work of the Seeds of Justice fellows. “A few Sundays ago, a group of young people—some of them are in the audience today—came to the State Capitol from Jewish Community Action…This is brought forward by young people who are the hope for our future and who want other young people to be more civically engaged.”
In all three of yesterday’s events, the press conference and the House and Senate committee hearings, Seeds of Justice fellows testified about why they believe in voter pre-registration. 15 year old Jake Henry and CAIR-MN student Lujain Al-Khawi, 17, kicked things off at the morning press conference. Standing in front of a coalition of supporters and elected officials, Jake said, “It just scares me that our generation might not vote. But that's why I love preregistration. It makes my classmates more interested in voting, and it helps address decreased voter turnout, one of the biggest issues of my generation.” Lujain added, “If we value democracy, we need to support bills like voter pre-registration that boost youth voter turnout and civic engagement for all communities and all parties.”
In the House Government Operations and Elections Committee, 16 year old Holden Platt repeatedly emphasized the importance of youth civic engagement. He attested that the effects of voter pre-registration will extend beyond the ballot box: “when young people are engaged in the political process, they become more engaged in their communities even after the election.” He shared stories about how voting leads to much more, talking about how expanding the vote for student council at his school lead to students offering suggestions and leading initiatives to improve the school.
In the last committee of the day, Senate Subcommittee on Elections, 15 year old Eileen Campbell combined all the day’s stories and testimony into 5 main reasons why voter pre-registration matters: voter pre-registration 1) motivates young people to vote, 2) makes voting a life-long habit, 3) leads to more trust in our elected officials, 4) increases the diversity of those who vote, and 5) creates a healthier democracy. I couldn’t have said it better myself. Congratulations to the Seeds of Justice fellows for a fantastic day yesterday, and I can’t wait to stand with you at the end of this process when Governor Dayton signs voter pre-registration into law.
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