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Several prominent Democrats led an event at the University of Minnesota Friday to encourage students to get their peers to vote in the upcoming election.

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, Rep. Cori Bush of Missouri and American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten each gave a short speech at the Al-Madinah Cultural Center inside the Coffman Student Union, where they were greeted by an excited audience of students.

"We need you to think of yourselves not just as somebody who's taking chemistry," Ellison said. "But as a leader in this community that you're in, who is committed to extending democracy to every one of your fellow students."

Omar stressed the importance of college students getting out to vote and said she knows the turnout of young people can make a big difference in elections.

Democratic organizations at the school have been doing weekly door-knocking events at dorms and apartments on and around the U's campus to make sure every student knows how, when and where to vote.

Various political groups on campus also are getting involved in other ways.

Minnesota College Republicans Chair Nia Moore said many members of her organization are interning and volunteering for various campaigns. The group also has brought candidates to college campuses and helped with get-out-the-vote initiatives.

"The Minnesota College Republicans have been working hard all over the state to get conservative students mobilized off campus and on the campaign trail," she said in an email Friday.

At Friday's event, where much of the campaigning focused on Ellison's re-election bid, Bush listed other ways students can get involved, whether through text banking, canvassing or volunteering at polls.

This is the second event at the U this month featuring prominent progressives who are supporting Ellison, following an earlier rally with U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders at Northrop Auditorium.

Polls show Ellison in a tight race with GOP challenger Jim Schultz. While Schultz has focused his campaign on rising crime, Ellison has talked about his support for abortion access, consumer protection and climate action.

Rep. Ilhan Omar posed with students at a get-out-the-vote event at the University of Minnesota.
Rep. Ilhan Omar posed with students at a get-out-the-vote event at the University of Minnesota.

Nadine Manske, Star Tribune, Star Tribune

During his speech, Ellison spoke casually, sitting in a chair and holding a microphone in one hand. He invited students into the conversation by asking them questions and talking about his own time as an undergraduate student. Ellison asked the students in the room a key question: What would they do to get their peers to vote in 18 days?

Student DaKota Morgan responded that the most important thing when having conversations with family and friends is finding the specific issues they care the most about.

Omar, Bush and Ellison all mentioned the importance of student loan debt relief in their campaigns and the work each has done at the national level to forgive student debt.

In a room full of college students, mentions of further debt relief were met with applause.

"Vote early, vote strong, vote hard!" Morgan said.