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Wohlers gives voters a lift

Donny Wohlers opens the door of his limo bus for University of Minnesota Morris student Max Kivi on Tuesday, Nov. 6. Wohlers, of Old No. 1 and a Stevens County Commissioners, used his limo bus to give students free rides to the polls. Rae Yost/Stevens County Times

For Max Kivi, it was almost liking voting on the campus of the University of Minnesota Morris. Kivi rode the bus provided by Morris businessman and Stevens County Commissioner Donny Wohlers on Nov. 6 so he could vote at the Morris Armory.

Kivi wasn't the only UMM student who rode Wohlers' bus. Wohlers checked a counter at around 1:30 p.m. on Nov. 6 and 82 students had ridden his bus. The bus is usually carts wedding parties, but Wohlers decided to use it to carry voters on election day.

After the city of Morris cut its voting precincts to three sites which closed the precinct at the university, Wohlers said he was contacted by a friend who works in student services. "He asked me if I'd be interested in using my limo bus," Wohlers said.

Wohlers said UMM offered to pay him but his insurance only allows him to use the limo bus for service that promotes his business so he declined to be paid. And he didn't mind giving the rides for free.

"This was super convenient," Kivi said of the bus. "It's free and it parked on campus. Basically, it was just like voting on campus."

Wohlers had a specific parking spot on campus. "I got back to that spot every 15 minutes," Wohlers said.

He transports student voters several blocks to the Armory. Of those 82 voters as of early afternoon, 80 went to the Armory, two went to other precincts, he said.

UMM junior Sydney Loechler said she doesn't like that the campus precinct was closed but having the "party bus" from Old No. 1 helps.

"Transportation is really important," UMM student Adam Schneider said. He didn't use Wohlers bus because he voted by absentee ballot in his hometown of Shakopee. He and a friend drove to the Armory so the friend could vote. Although he didn't use the bus, Schneider said students were frustrated because voting took less time when the precinct was on campus.

"Now, it can take a half hour to hour to vote," Schneider said. He appreciates that the university of Wohlers cooperated to provide transportation.

Loechler also didn't use the bus to go and vote but believed it would get used a lot during the day.

She's been part of a campus effort to get students registered so they can vote.

"The Morris Campus Student Association has been working hard to get out the vote," Schneider said.

Schneider said he worked at an information table and eight to 12 were prepared to register during one shift. MCSA plans to help students with registration throughout the day, he said.

Wohlers said the rides started when polls opened at 7 a.m.. A student he was working with drove a UMM vehicle while he was at the county board meeting. When the board meeting ended, Wohlers started driving his bus. He won't quit until the polls close at 8 p.m.