Q&A: Rep. Greenman on Voter Pre-Registration

Rep. Emma Greenman
Rep. Emma Greenman

In March 2023 the bill called the Democracy for the People Act was passed by the Minnesota State Legislature. Signed into law, it now lets 16- and 17-year-olds pre-register to vote, so they are ready to vote when they turn 18. The hope is to get more people voting as soon as they turn 18 because registration would be easier.

Rep. Emma Greenman (DFL, Minneapolis) was one of the main people who helped pass voter pre-registration. We talked to her about how the bill was passed, what the new process will look like and how to keep young voters engaged.

ThreeSixty also interviewed Sen. Zaynab Mohamed about the Democracy for the People Act.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

How does voter pre-registration work?

For automatic voter registration, if you are a young person or if you’re an eligible voter and you go to the DMV, give them all your paperwork, and you’re a US citizen who lives where they say they live, you’ll be automatically registered to vote, which is just another way to lower the barrier. 

What measures were taken so young people are not intimidated by others while voting?

Voter intimidation is something that happens regardless of whether you’re young or not. We’ve been more focused on it as we’ve seen in the last couple years. It feels like there’s a rising culture of intimidation and disinformation. As part of the Democracy for the People Act, we also included provisions around protecting voters against voter intimidation and harassment.

But, the best way I think to lower the fear and some of the anxiety, is to make our polling places are welcoming. We want to make the vote something that people do.

How do we keep young people engaged politically between the time they pre-registered when they vote in their first election?

I think that the question about engagement. I think it is all of our jobs, but I think especially at that age, some of the most exciting things are actually the student organizing and peer-to-peer organizing.

I know a lot of legislators and a lot of leaders are going out to the Secretary of State and getting folks excited. But, I think that the best way to create a culture of participation is for young people who are active right now, issue advocacy, active in organizing, maybe you’re on student council, to really bring that culture in and bring that into the culture of voting. I probably could tell your peers, or you could as leaders in your school and are probably more convincing to students that you go to school with then me. I think that’s a piece of it is helping support student organizing, helping support and really invest in all of the ways that young people because it’s just voting is just one piece of it. Right?

The practice of democracy is about digging in and caring about issues. It’s about talking to your community and neighbors. It’s about talking to your peers and also figuring out how you can move and make change. Policymaking is one way to do it. But there’s a whole set of other ways. I think making sure that we sort of talked about the whole practice of democracy and change is really important.

Honor worked with retired journalist Bill Wareham, MinnPost Managing Editor Harry Colbert Jr., and researcher Mike Malloy to finish his story. This story was completed at ThreeSixty’s Winter News Team: Capitol Edition in February 2024, where high school journalists covered important legislative issues, impacting Minnesota youth. Read more stories here.