By Nick Longworth
Voting season is quickly approaching across the nation, and in Hubbard County the League of Women Voters (LWV) Park Rapids unit is looking to make sure citizens are informed, registered and ready.
On Tuesday, Sept. 23 the Park Rapids Area High School welcomed members of the LWV during both lunch periods for National Voter Registration Day.
With table spread full of information and registration forms, their presence was an effort to further mobilize the local youth to get out and vote this November.
“We’re trying to get anybody that has either moved, or is turning 18 to register (to vote),” said Carolynne C. White, current president of the Park Rapids League of Women Voters.
“If they fill out the sheet today, we will take it into Hubbard County, and it will be on the rolls when you go to vote in November. They can also pick up absentee ballots here. Some people feel a little strange going into the courthouse (to register), and we’re a little less formal,” White said.
The League of Women Voters originally began as a women’s suffrage movement in 1920. Founded by Carrie Chapman Catt, the movement promoted awareness and the social importance of the right to vote.
Today the premise remains the same while allowing members of both sexes to join the cause in unison.
The Park Rapids LWV State Unit is a nonpartisan 501(c)3 political organization that aims to encourage informed and active participation of citizens in government, and influences public policy through education and advocacy.
Began in 2000, the Park Rapids unit of League of Women Voters initially formed with 30 members who wanted to be active within the Hubbard County area.
“This is to educate,” White said of the day’s event. “If you have any questions, this is a place to come and get information besides the courthouse.”
Educate and motivate.
“We know that there are 18-year-olds here, and if we can start them as young as possible, the research shows that most people that vote when they’re 18 that first time will keep voting the rest of their lives whereas people that don’t start don’t have the habit,” White said.
White said the Park Rapids LWV has no particular political affiliation and thus no agenda to push.
The only agenda they have is an informed citizenry that goes out and utilizes their vote.
“We talk about issues, not candidates and not people. We want to know what the facts are, and make decisions from that standpoint,” White said. “We just want to establish a good habit. Every vote does count. It’s your right as a citizen, and if you don’t exercise that right somebody else will. You might as well have your opinion expressed – that’s your one chance to really do it.”
The group does choose to highlight specific issues each voting season, with this year being “water issues,” White said.
Over the day the LWV registered seven Nevis students, three Park Rapids students, and one Park Rapids teacher to vote.
Of the 10 events that the League of Women Voters organization has had this month, 42 voters have been registered.
Events planned for 2014-15 include voter registration, candidate forums, an emphasis on water concerns, a workshop with the Kitchigami Regional Library System and the Indigenous Farming Conference about Indigenous Agriculture: Then and Now featuring Ojibwe presenters speaking to their history in agriculture in Minnesota, the impact of agricultural practices on indigenous farming, and how resulting conflicts are addressed. The LWV national study on Agriculture – completed in 2014 – inspired the topic.
Membership in LWV, a non-partisan political organization, is open to all citizens.