We are in a time of COVID-19 when the election season is really kicking off. This newsletter will describe League plans for this upcoming electoral season, including the Annual Meeting, Voter Services, the Youth Civic Engagement Program, and two films in lieu of the normal new members gathering.
I. Annual Meeting
In light of the pandemic, the League of Women Northfield Cannon Falls will hold its Annual Meeting via Zoom on Tuesday, July 28. The zoom session will open at 6:00PM so that members can be sure their zoom is working as well as have a chance for a little social time. Meeting for business will begin at 6:30. We will review the past year, have a report on the budget, and elect officers. Secretary of State Steve Simon will join us at 7:00 to discuss voting options and issues in this time of COVID-19. The title for his talk is: How to Vote in Minnesota in 2020.
Please save the date and plan to join the meeting. An agenda will be sent out closer to July 28.
Here is the Zoom link: https://minnstate.zoom.us/j/98545046181
II. Voter Services
We are highlighting our Voter Services plans for the fall given this electoral season.
Hi! My name is Melanie Freeze and I am the co-chair of the LWV-NCF’s Voter Services Committee. While the pandemic has required us to think outside of the box, the Voter Services Committee of the LWV-NCF has been hard at work. We are excited to share some of the upcoming voter registration and education planned for 2020 and invite you to get involved!
First, I am pleased to welcome and introduce John Haberman who will be serving with me as our other co-chair of the Voter Services Committee. John will be heading our voter registration efforts while I will focus primarily on voter education efforts.
Second, I am happy to report that the Northfield and Cannon Falls League of Women Voters was recently awarded a grant of $835 by the LWVMN and the Martin & Brown Foundation. These funds were granted to support our local voter service activities including voter registration drives, candidate forums, and other non-partisan efforts designed to activate and educate all voters.
Part of these grant funds will be used for our new Voter Registration and Information Bookmark Program. Our league will be producing bookmarks with basic information on how to register to vote, absentee voting, and key election dates. These bookmarks will encourage online registration with a QR code that brings people directly to the MN Secretary of State portal. The bookmarks will also direct people to https://www.vote411.org/minnesota, a website sponsored by the League that contains up-to-date information about the election and candidates. Numerous community partners, including the Northfield Library, Community Action Center of Northfield, and the Faribault Diversity Coalition have agreed to help distribute these bookmarks. If you want to help, volunteer to be a community partner liaison for our League. Liaisons will distribute the bookmarks and help ensure key communities across Northfield have support and access to election education resources.
The grant money will also be used to host LWV-NCF candidate forums for Northfield Mayor, City Council (At Large, Ward 2, Ward 3), Northfield School Board, MN House (20B and 58B), MN House (20 and 58), and possibly other election races. We are tentatively planning to host the forums during fourth week of September. The forums will be in-person using social distancing, but there will be NO in-person audience attendance. Instead, the event will be live-streamed online and made available for playback online and on our local television station. Written questions are being accepted via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Please submit your own questions and encourage other community members to begin submitting questions. If you would be willing to serve as a Question Facilitator for the event, please contact Melanie Freeze at email@example.com.
This year we will not be able to host our traditional candidate Meet & Greets for Randolph and Cannon Falls local elections. In lieu of these events, we are organizing a member-led effort to encourage all local candidates running for office in Northfield and surrounding communities to submit responses to the VOTE411 Voter Guide produced by the LWV Education Fund: https://www.vote411.org/ballot
What can I do to help voter service efforts in my local community?
- Volunteer to be a League liaison. You will serve as a contact person with a local community organization (e.g., village on Cannon, Wellstone Commons, Three Links, Hospital LTCare, Community Action Center, St. Olaf, Carleton College, Faribault Diversity Coalition, Northfield Healthy Community Initiative, Greenvale Park Community School, etc.), identify any needs, and distribute educational materials and resources.
- Submit questions for the candidate forums.
- Volunteer as a Question Facilitator for the forum (training required).
- Encourage local candidates to participate in the VOTE411 Voter Guides—the LWV-NCF will be organizing this candidate outreach. Email Melanie Freeze at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to help.
- Tell people about VOTE411. Review and share information on how to register online and request absent ballots online with links to the Secretary of State’s website at https://www.vote411.org/minnesota.
- The Secretary of State’s office has some voter engagement materials in non-English languages. They are continuing to add translated materials. You can find there materials here and distribute to people who may need them: https://www.sos.state.mn.us/elections-voting/get-involved/voter-outreach-materials/
- Help someone check if they are registered to vote: https://mnvotes.sos.state.mn.us/VoterStatus.aspx
- Encourage someone to pledge to vote by texting the word MNVOTE to 33222. They will receive information on voting and reminders about key dates in the election process (1-2 texts per month from June through November). Unsubscribe by texting the word STOP to 33222 at any time.
- Encourage someone who is not in a vulnerable population to serve as an election judge. (note that students age 16 and 17 can be election judge trainees): https://www.ci.northfield.mn.us/127/Serving-as-an-Election-Judge
- Send Melanie Freeze email@example.com your ideas or concerns.
- Remember as you reach out and help people register to vote or learn more about candidates that the League is non-partisan. If you reference the League in your actions, be sure to conduct your activity in a non-partisan manner.
Dates & Deadlines of Note
Primary Elections: Tuesday August 11, 2020
- online by Tuesday July 21, 2020
- mail by Tuesday July 21, 2020
- in person by Tuesday August 11, 2020
- Vote by mail/absentee or early in person June 26 through August 10 for the primary.
- In addition to partisan offices, the primary will narrow down the field of candidates for non-partisan offices, including Northfield mayor, county commissioner (Rice County, District 1), etc. There are a lot of candidates running, so we encourage you to learn more about them: https://candidates.sos.state.mn.us/
- If you are voting absentee by mail, remember you need to 1)request an absentee ballot at mnvotes.org, 2) when you get the ballot review the instructions carefully—it needs your signature to be valid 3) Primary election absentee ballots will NOT need a witnesses signature in order to be counted 4) Be sure to send the ballot in on time (must be postmarked on or before Election Day and received by the county before the county canvass)—we suggest you put the ballot in the mail AT LEAST 3 days before the election (we advise sending it in a week before the election). If you forget, the ballot can be hand delivered to the election office that sent the ballot the day of the election by 3pm.
General Elections: Tuesday November 3, 2020
- online by Tuesday October 13
- mail by Tuesday October 13
- in person by Tuesday November 3
- Vote by mail/absentee or early in person September 18 through November 2 for the general election
- If you are voting absentee by mail, remember you need to 1)request an absentee ballot at mnvotes.org, 2) when you get the ballot review the instructions carefully—it needs your signature to be valid 3) Currently (this may change as there is a lawsuit) your absentee ballot must have a witness signature by a registered MN voter or public notary 4) Be sure to send the ballot in on time—put the ballot in the mail AT LEAST 3 days before the election (we advise sending it in a week before the election). If you forget, the ballot can be hand delivered to the election office that sent the ballot the day of the election by 3pm.
More information on 2020 Elections and COVID-19 here: https://www.sos.state.mn.us/election-administration-campaigns/elections-calendar/2020-elections-and-covid-19/
III. MN League of Women Voters – Youth Civic Engagement Program
Youth voter turnout is critical to the development of our country and our world. Only about 49% of eligible voters in the United States ages 18-29 voted in the 2016 election. Before you can vote, you need to be registered. Any U.S. citizen who will be 18 by the next election day can register easily online or by mail. Registration can be completed as late as the election day but early registration is recommended.
In general, the League of Women Voters encourages informed and active participation in government. To encourage and support youth voter turnout this fall, the Minnesota League of Women Voters created a Fellowship through its Youth Civic Engagement Program. The Northfield/Cannon Falls League was one of 15 local chapters participating in this Fellowship and we were selected as its Fellows.
Using the tools and resources of the League, we worked with Principal Leer at Northfield High School this Spring to educate and register classmates eligible to vote in the upcoming August primary or November general election. Though distance learning due to the Coronavirus Pandemic created unexpected challenges, we pushed ahead with the support of the League. We organized a drawing for a $25 gift card to a local business. To be entered into the drawing, our classmates were asked to send us a picture of their completed voter registration or proof of a conversation they had with a family member or friend about their voting plan. We were pleased with the response of our classmates with many registering and planning to vote this fall. Though all that registered were winners, Gracie Svien, class of 2020, had the winning entry for the gift card! Congratulations Gracie!
Our Fellowship will continue when school resumes this Fall. At that time, we will continue working with the League and local high schools to educate and encourage our classmates to register and vote. If you would like more information about registering and voting, check out the MN Secretary of State website: https://www.sos.state.mn.us/elections-voting/. You can also text the word MNVOTE to 33222 to receive text messages from the LWV-MN about where and how to vote, how to confirm a registration is complete, absentee ballots, and more (text STOP to 33222 to unsubscribe).
Amelia Arnold, ’22 and Ellie Hall-Holt, ‘22, Youth Civic Engagement FellowsMinnesota League of Women Voters, Northfield/Cannon Falls
IV. New Member Gathering
Given the ways that we are challenged to gather, we have put our annual Books and Brews on hold. This new member gathering provides a chance for people to meet and socialize and share book ideas. We will be in touch as to ways to connect.
In the meantime, we offer two different movie opportunities:
- LWVNCF History Project
I am thrilled to announce the July release of our Northfield-Cannon Falls League of Women Voters documentary! This documentary is the result of several years of hard work by Carleton students, particularly Grace Rubin and Nicki Harris. We will be in touch with plans for a remote – but celebratory! – premiere. (Serena Zabin)
2. LWVMN is presenting a virtual screening and panel discussion focused on the documentary film “Slay the Dragon.”
“Slay the Dragon” shines a light on gerrymandering, and follows a handful of citizens’ groups who are outraged by an attack on the core democratic principle that every person’s vote should count equally. They battle party operatives and an entrenched political establishment to fix a broken system.
While the film primarily discusses gerrymandering efforts by a specific party, all political parties and groups have been guilty of gerrymandering. The film illustrates the need for changes in how redistricting is done now to prevent gerrymandering in the future.
The film is available for viewing on Friday, July 24. The panel discussion is Sunday, July 26 from 7:00 to 8:30 PM. Both events are free and open to both LWVMN members and the public with registration. Registration ends July 22. For a link to further information and the registration go to https://www.lwvmn.org/slay-the-dragon
We wish you all good health and hope you will be able to join us for the Annual Meeting.
Adrienne Falcon and Pat Johnson, co-presidents