Duluth City Council elections are coming up on Nov. 5, and every registered UMD student is eligible to vote. With two city council seats up for grabs, this election represents an opportunity for students to increase their say in local policymaking. According to Bernard Bichler, a student with Minnesota Public Research Group (MPIRG), student representation in city council is extremely important.
"City councilors have a lot more influence on things that affect students directly than any national representative," Bichler said. "They can pass ordinances, like housing, that affect students the most (out of any elected official).”
There are nine Duluth City Council members, five of whom each represent a specific district in Duluth, with the other four are at-large representatives. City councilors are elected to four-year terms, staggered so that half of the council is up for reelection every two years.
UMD is situated in Duluth's 2nd district, and though the 2nd district seat is open, the incumbent is running unopposed. Four candidates are contesting two of the at-large seats, and the two candidates with the two highest vote-counts win.
Most students say they will not be voting in the upcoming election, citing time constraints or lack of knowledge about the candidates.
"I voted in the last presidential election, but not city council,” said senior John Earl. “It's a time commitment. I just live in my little bubble, going to and from school."
It seems that none of the candidates have made a noteworthy impression on students.
"I've seen some signs, but haven't heard of any of the candidates," said Becker, Minn., native and UMD junior Kierra Scepurek. "I'm probably not going to vote. I haven't heard anything about it, and I don't know who's running."
Sophomore Dan Mohr agrees with Scepurek.
"Nobody sticks out," Mohr said of the candidates. "I might vote, but I don't have a lot of time and I don't really know anything about the candidates. If I don't know who's running then I'm not going to vote, since that is kind of a worthless vote."
While many students aren't registered to vote in Minnesota, it's easy to do so online or at the polls.
"I'm from Texas, and I'm not registered to vote here," said junior Maria Oropeza. "I don't keep track of anything (in Duluth), so I don't feel I'm knowledgeable enough to vote on anything. I would be more interested in voting if the city councilors came to campus to talk."
City council candidates will be on campus on Oct. 22 in Griggs Center, where they will be available to answer questions. MPIRG representative Bichler thinks it will be a great opportunity for students.
"People have been saying they aren't informed, and this is a way to rectify that," Bichler said.
Many blame their lack of awareness on being from out of town.
"I don't associate with Duluth stuff," said Brooklyn Park native and UMD sophomore Sam Canniff. "I'm more focused on school. (City council elections) don't seem that relevant to me."
Students can get voter registration forms in the UMD library and drop off the completed forms at MPIRG's office in the Multicultural Center. Pre-registration ends on Oct. 15, but those who miss the deadline and still wish to vote can register at the polls on election day. Students will be able to vote on campus in the Kirby Ballroom.
BY JOHN FAHNENSTIEL