By Mary Van Beusekom
To raise the profile of issues important to Minnesotans age 50-plus, AARP is encouraging older voters to study candidates’ stances and to cast ballots in this year’s high-stakes elections.
“It is very important to us to make sure our issues are being focused on and that candidates are providing relevant information to 50-plus voters,” said Seth Boffeli, AARP Minnesota communications director.
“The candidates need to reach out to these voters, motivate them to vote and say what they stand for,” he said.
AARP is particularly interested in candidates’ positions on issues such as support for caregivers, retirement plans for private-sector workers, prescription drug coverage, Medicare and Medicaid.
In midterm elections there is typically a falloff in voting among all age groups, including 50-plus voters, Boffeli said. For example, in the 2016 presidential election, nearly 80 percent of 50-plus Minnesotans voted, compared with about 60 percent in 2014.
This year’s general election, on Nov. 6, will be unusual in that voters will choose both of the state’s U.S. senators. They will also pick a successor to Gov. Mark Dayton (D), who is not seeking reelection.
Other races are for lieutenant governor, all eight U.S. representatives, all 134 members of the Minnesota House of Representatives, and various judicial and local officials.
A primary election will be held Aug. 14 to determine which candidates will be on the general election ballot.
AARP Minnesota is taking a multipronged approach to get members to cast informed votes, including:
- Distributing voter pledge cards online, through direct mail, at the AARP Information Center at the Mall of America and at in-person events, such as the AARP free movie night at CHS Field in St. Paul, on Aug. 1, and at the AARP booth at the Minnesota State Fair, Aug. 23 to Sept. 3.
- Offering voter registration materials and absentee ballot request forms at the State Fair.
- Sending the gubernatorial nominees a questionnaire about their stances on important issues, with answers to be shared with AARP members.
- Contacting voters who don’t consistently vote in off-year elections to encourage them to participate.
In addition to its get-out-the-vote efforts, AARP is trying to help heal the perceived urban-rural political rift in Minnesota with a project with Twin Cities PBS.
“There’s a narrative that Greater Minnesota doesn’t have anything in common with the metro area anymore and that one side doesn’t care about the other,” Boffeli said.
As part of the station’s larger initiative, In It Together, the On the Road to a Greater Minnesota web series will visit communities across the state to report on how issues such as caregiving, public transportation, immigration and a thinning workforce transcend geography, said Dean Orton, Twin Cities PBS chief operating officer.
The series, set to premiere this fall, “seeks to challenge and reframe widespread narratives about democracy and government that focus overwhelmingly on partisanship, cynicism and disengagement,” he said. “It’s not about the candidate. It’s an issues-based approach.”
Mary Van Beusekom is a writer living in Excelsior, Minn.