Minneapolis Launches Tenant Registration Information Requirement

[Image via houseofgenius]

There’s always a lot to do when you move into a new rental apartment – recruiting friends to help, reserving the freight elevator and finding a local pizza place to cater the whole affair – but effective yesterday (March 1) in the City of Minneapolis, there’s one less thing to worry about: registering to vote or updating your registration. The Star-Tribune has more:

If you move in to a rented house or apartment in Minneapolis, you’ll soon be handed a packet of voter information along with the keys to your new place. 

Starting March 1, the city will require landlords to give all new tenants two documents: a voter registration information sheet and a voter registration application. Landlords can either hand out paper copies or send tenants a link to the website where the documents are posted online. 

 The new ordinance was approved by the City Council in September. Council Member Jacob Frey, who introduced the idea, said the requirement is a simple way the city can reach more young people, people of color and other groups who move frequently and may miss out on registering to vote. 

City officials believe the requirement can help close the gap between the total number of eligible voters and registration:

In a presentation to the council’s election committee on Tuesday, City Clerk Casey Carl pointed to statistics from the Pew Research Center that one in four Americans of legal voting age are not registered to vote, which amounted to about 51 million people in the last presidential election.

“Registration remains one of the biggest obstacles to full enfranchisement,” he said. 

Landlords are unanimously enthusiastic about the requirement, but the City has made it clear that their responsibility stops at delivering the information:

Carl said his office has heard from landlords supportive of the new regulation and some worried it will be unnecessarily burdensome. He said landlords are not required to do anything beyond providing the information, such as ensuring tenants register or that they actually vote.

Landlords have been notified of the new ordinance in two separate mailings, sent in late January and early February. 

Most striking – and perhaps surprising to some unaware of the City of Lakes’ diversity – is the wide range of languages in which the information will be provided; plus, the program will be manageable within current funding levels:

The voting information is available in English, Spanish, Somali and Hmong, and the voter registration forms are available in those four languages, plus Russian and Vietnamese.

Officials said they’ll be able to cover administration costs for the new ordinance with the city’s existing elections budget. Violations will be investigated based on complaints from tenants.

The State of Minnesota already has a high rate of voter participation, but this program – when combined with others like online registration, Election Day registration and the state’s recent membership in the ERIC multistate exchange – seeks to drive the number of registered eligible voters as high as possible. It will be interesting to see how many new tenants take advantage of the information, and whether they complete or update their registrations online.

Still, it’s yet another way to get on the rolls – not to mention a useful way to procrastinate on unpacking or throwing away all those pizza boxes.

Stay tuned…

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