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LWV offering civic engagement lessons

In March, League of Women Voters (LWV) of the Park Rapids Area is offering two programs to promote being an engaged citizen.

In a commentary written by Lee Hamilton from Center on Representative Government and published by the Enterprise on Feb. 10, he explains, "Citizens today carry an extra burden — not merely to pick a politician we might favor for some reason, but to make choices that move us away from ideology and our own biases, and toward getting this country running again."

This is a huge responsibility, and a citizen must have an understanding of how government is set up, the responsibilities of a government and what citizens can do to make changes. This kind of information was provided in high school civics class, but for some of us, it has been a long time since we were in high school.

One remedy to this quandary is civic engagement, which is vital to keeping our democracy healthy. Sign up for the Park Rapids Community Education class "Becoming an Engaged Citizen: What citizens need to know about their government." It will be held Thursdays from March 1 to March 22. Classes will run from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the Frank White Education Center. Carolynne White and Barb Wiebesick of the League of Women Voters Park Rapids (LWV) will lead the classes.

The first session will provide an overview of the Constitution, voting procedures and safeguards to voting procedures, plus political parties and campaigns. The second session will cover "fake news," basic fact-checking and skills for effectively communicating with government officials (petitions, letters, emails, etc). The third session will cover the legislative process from the federal to the local level. The last session will wrap up with explanations of local boards, commissions and councils and how a citizen can get involved. Register by calling 218-237-6600 or go to www.parkrapidscomed.com.

A citizen's most powerful tool in civic engagement is the right to vote. It is important that we all learn how to protect that right. On Tuesday, March 13, the LWV and Headwaters Center for Lifelong Learning presents a joint program on election integrity with Steve Simon, Minnesota's Secretary of State. As Minnesota's chief elections administrator, he has pledged to "work with anyone, of any political affiliation, from any part of our state" to protect, defend and strengthen the right to vote in Minnesota." The program begins at 1 p.m. at Park Theater.

According to Simon, Minnesota has rigorous safety measures in place before, on and after Election Day to ensure elections are fair and secure. Voting integrity is an important cornerstone of democracy.

Simon will address these questions: What are the safeguards for our election system? Can we be hacked? What does hacking exactly mean? How do we make sure there is no fraud in our registration and voting system? What do we need to do to improve our voting system? What are our responsibilities as citizens to maintain the integrity of our elections? Is the Legislature putting forth any bills with changes for our election system in 2018?

LWV is a non-partisan, volunteer organization whose mission is to encourage informed and active participation in the community through education. Direct any questions about LWV activities, events or how to join — remember, it's not for women only — by emailing lwvparkrapids//lwvparkrapidsarea.blogspot.com.

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