LeadMN President John Runningen testified in support of House File 110, which allows 16 and 17-year-olds to pre-register to vote in Minnesota. LeadMN seeks to make voting a habit in young people through a long-term approach of providing civic education, creating civic agency and tearing down institutional barriers that prevent students from voting. This legislation will tear down one of the barriers that we see in the voter registration process for first-time voters.
Read President Runningen testimony below:
Hello, my name is John Runningen, and I am the President of LeadMN. We are college students connecting for change. LeadMN represents the 100,000 community and technical college students in Minnesota. I am here to speak in favor of HF110 because it will help young people register to vote.
Over the last several years, LeadMN has registered over 10,000 students to vote as part of our program to grow voters in Minnesota. LeadMN seeks to make voting a habit in young people through a long-term approach of providing civic education, creating civic agency and tearing down institutional barriers that prevent students from voting.
This legislation will tear down one of the barriers that we see in the voter registration process for first-time voters. Former Justice Sandra Day O’Conner said, “Knowledge about the ideas embodied in the Constitution and the ways in which it shapes our lives is not passed down from generation to generation through the gene pool; it must be learned anew by each generation."
Allowing for pre-registration creates an opportunity for our high schools to teach students to be engaged citizens. As a student at Kennedy Secondary school in Fergus Falls, I learned the ABCs of democracy. But like many of my classmates, I checked out sometimes because this content did not feel relevant to me.
I didn’t really care about who was running and what major topics were being voted on because I had to wait until I was 18 to register and feel like my opinion mattered. It wasn’t until I turned 18 that I realized how far behind I was in understanding how our system works and just how important all of our involvement was. At that point in my life, I didn’t have teachers there to help me out, and I, like many others, had to learn on my own.
I believe that allowing 16 and 17-year-olds the opportunity to register to vote helps by providing an on-ramp for students to become engaged citizens. They will also have the opportunity to have the support of their teachers to help them understand what it means to be civically engaged.
Finally, this will give the students a chance to experience what they are learning in the classroom instead of waiting for the opportunity to apply what they have learned. We all know that Democracy is not a spectator sport. And this legislation will help actively engage more young people in our democracy. And that is something we all can get behind.