Keesha Gaskins, League of Women Voters of Minnesota Executive Director, and Cassandra Ward-Brown, AKA Day at the Capitol organizer, recently discussed the importance of civic engagement on the Tuesday, Jan. 22 segment of "Conversations with Al McFarlane." Keesha Gaskins, League of Women Voters of Minnesota Executive Director, and Cassandra Ward-Brown, AKA Day at the Capitol organizer, recently discussed the importance of civic engagement on the Tuesday, Jan. 22 segment of "Conversations with Al McFarlane."
Right: Keesha Gaskins
The robust discussion about voter education and participation was timely as Minnesotans are gearing up for caucuses on Super Tuesday: February 5th. Party caucuses are the first step to the general elections on Tuesday, Nov. 4th. During this year's caucuses Minnesotans will discuss political issues with their neighbors and cast ballots for their presidential preference.
Both Gaskins and Ward-Brown stressed the importance of civic participation, regardless of party affiliation. They encouraged Minnesotans to take advantage of programs and organizations such as The League of Women Voters of Minnesota (LWVMN), which educate people on how to make informed political choices.
LWVMN is a non-partisan, grassroots, volunteer organization with 42 local leagues statewide. The organization's members research, find consensus on, advocate, and lobby for selected public policy issues. According to Gaskins, people are less aware of the lobbying that's done at the Capitol. "Our action committee has over 15 citizen lobbyists that we train on various issues. We are present at the Capitol every week attending committee meetings."
Gaskins said LWVMN also publishes studies each year on issues such as immigration. In March, they will release a study on judicial issues.
Now in its seventh year, AKA Day at the Capitol, a non-partisan opportunity for participants to speak with elected and appointed officials, will take place Thursday, Feb. 21 in Room 125 at the Capitol, 9 am – Noon.
Ward-Brown said part of Alpha Kappa Alpha's (AKA) volunteer mission is to stay in touch with communities of color and carry forward their issues. These issues include staying in touch with elected and appointed leaders. AKA Day at the Capitol is part of a national program initiative, she said.
"We get together with members of the judiciary, members of the House of Representatives and Senate and constitutional officers such as the Secretary of State and the Attorney General," said Ward-Brown.
She said event organizers provide talking points to participants. "The talking points have been developed from the headlines and from community meetings. At past events, we've talked about affordable housing and the disproportionate number of out of home placements in the African American community. This year, the talking points focus on election year concerns such as: Are we actually in a recession and if so, what does that mean for the average person in terms of services and programs? Also, what's the impact of the recession on issues such as immigration, education, housing and health care?