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Rolando García is President of North Hennepin Community College.

Sept. 17 is Constitution Day, when we recognize the signing of the United States Constitution in 1787. The year 2020 also marks the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, which extended voting rights to women and is both a presidential election and census year. As an institution of higher learning, North Hennepin Community College embraces its role in educating, creating dialogue and encouraging civic activism among our campus and the surrounding communities. As Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Democracy transformed from thin paper to thick action is the greatest form of government on earth.” On this Constitution Day, I encourage you to be counted and to be heard.

Did you know the U.S. Constitution mandates that the country count its population once every 10 years? Michael Gold-Biss is a member of the political science faculty and shared these insights about why it’s important to be counted. “The 2020 census will provide a snapshot of the United States – who we are, where we live, and much more. The results will show, for example, where communities need new schools, clinics, roads, and more services for families, older adults and children. It determines the number of seats each state in Congress holds as well as the drawing of congressional and state legislative districts. Finally, it will inform how hundreds of billions of dollars in federal funding are allocated to more than 100 programs, including Medicaid, Head Start, and many more.”

He adds that the information you provide is completely confidential. Under Title 13 of the U.S. Code, the Census Bureau cannot release any identifiable information about individuals, households, or businesses, even to law enforcement agencies. The law states that the information collected may only be used for statistical purposes only. If you or someone you know has not answered the census, please visit https://my2020census.gov/ and respond by Sept. 30.

While the 2020 presidential election presents some unique challenges, including how to vote safely, it’s important to vote. I’ve asked political science faculty member Andra Samuels to break down some common voting myths.

Does my vote matter? “Yes, every vote matters. A vote matters for several reasons, including it’s a fundamental right, it’s how we hold elected officials accountable, and in our mostly winner-takes-all plurality system, the winner of the election only has to have one more vote than the next closest candidate.”

Will my vote get counted? “Yes, your vote will get counted as long as voters are aware of the ballot requirements of their state, and if they have met these requirements. Voters can find this information on the Minnesota secretary of state website (https://www.sos.state.mn.us/elections-voting/), including how to register, how to vote, and tracking your ballot.”

How prevalent is voter fraud? “Voting fraud has proven to be low to non-existent. In its report The Truth About Voter Fraud, the Brennan Center found that most reported incidents of voter fraud were traceable to other sources, such as clerical errors or bad data matching practices. The report reviewed elections that had been meticulously studied for voter fraud, and found incident rates between 0.0003 percent and 0.0025 percent.”

I want to thank our political science faculty for sharing their insights, and encourage everyone to be counted (by Sep. 30), and to be heard (beginning Sept. 18).

Rolando García is President of North Hennepin Community College.

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