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MSUM won't have a polling place this year, upsetting some in Moorhead

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For the first time since 2012, Minnesota State University Moorhead's Comstock Memorial Union won't be a polling place this Election Day. WDAY-TV2 / 2

MOORHEAD — For the first time in years, there will be no polling places on the Minnesota State University campus this Election Day.

Those aren't the only voting booths changing locations in Moorhead this year, and some in the city are upset about the changes.

For the first time since 2012, MSUM's Comstock Memorial Union will not be a place to vote on the issues and candidates. For first-time voters like Isaiah Toedter, it's a major letdown.

"Taking away a resource right here on campus, that's so convenient for us, it's a little frustrating," First-time vote Isaiah Toedter said.

City officials opted to instead move that polling location to Grace United Methodist Church, 1120 17th St. S., which is about three blocks away from the CMU. It's a walkable distance, even during bad weather.

But the president of MSUM College Republicans says he can't understand why the city would move this polling location.

"Why make it harder then?" said Jason Peterson, who's also running against Paul Marquart to serve on the Minnesota House from District 4B. "There's no reason to move it off campus. I've not heard one logical reason to move it off campus."

The city's governmental relations director, Lisa Bode, said the move was due in part to low turnout at primaries, which are held in the summer when most college students aren't on the campus.

The decision was made as part of the consent agenda during a January meeting of the Moorhead City Council, meaning it was approved along with several other issues without further discussion. There weren't other mentions of the polling place change in the six meeting agendas leading up to that vote, so there weren't public meetings or discussion about the topic — and former councilman Mark Altenburg said that's not right.

"We should have public input," Former councilman Mark Altenburg said. "To hear council members weren't aware of it, to hear it was put on consent agenda, really disturbs me."

It wasn't just the MSUM polling location that changed, and seven other locations also shifted, seemingly without public input.

William Hagen, president of MSUM's College Democrats chapter, said the move could make it more challenging for some students to vote. He's working to make sure polling places come back for the next election.

"We have to put the pressure on in making sure that we have polling locations that make sense for the community," MSUM College Democrats William Hagen said. "In the past, this has been a great spot for that, and it will be a great spot again."

WDAY-TV left a message with the city manager's office to find out how the location changes ended up on the consent agenda, but did not hear back.