The bus is ready and waiting. All that’s needed? Voters to hop on board.
Early voting, already running more than double the pace set by the last Minneapolis city election, continues through Nov. 6, and three groups are pushing to get North Siders to the polls. The entire City Council, the Park Board and the mayor’s office are all on the ballot.
A white charter bus idled outside Juxtaposition Arts, offering free rides downtown Friday for anyone who wanted to vote early. It was slow going, but the organizers had announced it only a day before. They had some takers Thursday and expect the action to pick up next week.
“This week we’ll see what happens, but we have the thought that we’ll build momentum in the second and third weeks,” said DeAnna Cummings, CEO of Juxtaposition Arts.
City officials reported Friday that more than 4,000 people had already voted at the Early Vote Center, up from 1,547 at the same point before the 2013 election.
“You have some very highly organized, competitive races, and that’s driving a lot of people to the polls,” said Casey Carl, the Minneapolis city clerk. “In the Somali community in particular, these are new citizens who are anxious to put their hands on the levers of local government, so they’re really, really turning out the vote.”
Starting Monday, the Early Vote Center at 217 3rd St. S. will be open weekdays from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. The center will also have weekend hours — Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sundays from noon to 5 p.m. for the final two weekends before Election Day.
There were early indications that voting would be robust for this election.
Record crowds turned out for the April DFL caucuses, and more than 1,200 delegates attended a lengthy DFL convention in July. Hundreds of young activists have thrown themselves into campaigns supporting a slate of progressive City Council challengers and 16 mayoral hopefuls.
Now, with the election just over two weeks away, efforts to get out the vote are ramping up, and it’s not just the candidates pushing people to go to the polls.
Chaka Mkali, a Rhymesayers Entertainment musician who co-chairs Voices for Racial Justice, came up with the idea for the bus on the North Side. Rhymesayers is paying for the buses and fliers. This election represents Rhymesayers’ heaviest involvement in get-out-the-vote and voter engagement efforts, Mkali said, and he said it will take patience to see results.
“Anything that I’ve ever been a part of creating, nothing ever happened the first day,” said Mkali, also known as I Self Devine. “Until community shows up, it’s always our fault.”
He spoke with a few people Friday near the intersection of Emerson and West Broadway, and he said that just letting people know about the city election was satisfying, and that people were glad to hear about it. Teams of people spent the rest of the day door-knocking and handing out fliers.
“I’m ready to hit the block,” Mkali said, as fliers printed off on the copier. “I’m going to go wherever people are.”