Matt Sarnak has always been a voter but never considered himself a particularly political person. But on Thursday afternoon, when the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that mail-in ballots had to be received by Nov. 3, he decided he needed to act.
“I want my guy to win, but I’m for people voting,” he said. “If they’re eligible, they should be able to. The whole disenfranchisement hit me.”
That ruling – and California Rep. Katie Porter’s Mean Girls-themed Tweet, sparked Sarnz to create the MN Vote Mobile, which offers those who need a free ride to people in the Twin Cities to either return their ballots that would have been mailed in or to get to the polls on Tuesday.
“In this day and age, you can’t expect people to risk their safety, and it’s really hard, especially older people who are more susceptible [to the Coronavirus],” he said.
People had started posting on Sarnak’s neighborhood Nextdoor, where he had seen people posting that what citizens could do was join a text bank to let voters know that the deadlines had changed.
“But what about those that don’t have the means to get there? Or don’t have a car or take public transit, or share a car? Or lower-income families? How do I reach out to those people?” he asked.
The website is set up to take requests for rides but also looks for volunteers to do the driving. Right now it’s a 2-to-1 ratio of drivers to those who need rides. Sarnak said that all recommended COVID-19 requirements are followed, including social distancing requirements, and mask requirements for drivers and passengers.
As part of the volunteer form, Sarnak asks why people are interested in volunteering.
“One person said ‘I believe in democracy and I think everyone should vote. I had times where I could get to vote, now I want to help,’” he said. “It means a lot. It wasn’t hard to create the website. I’m just trying to do my part. I’m not sure how much it’ll help, but every little bit helps.”
Sarnak quotes former Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis on the website, who said: “The most important office, and the one which all of us can and should fill, is that of private citizen.”
“I’m just trying to do my part,” he said. “If I can get someone to vote that may have been disenfranchised, that’ll make me feel better.”