Democracy Academy: Government — elections the focus

Ruth Ziel welcomes attendees to the first Marquette Democracy Academy workshop at the Peter White Public Library in Marquette on Tuesday. Democracy Academy is a new project by the nonpartisan organization Voters Not Politicians Education Fund. (Journal photo by Dreyma Beronja)



Journal Staff Writer

MARQUETTE — A group of Marquette residents came together to learn more about the importance of local government as well as the upcoming election.

This year, the nonpartisan Voters Not Politicians Education Fund created Democracy Academy. This workshop was founded to “create a positive feedback loop built on a culture of civic engagement,” according to the organization.

VNPEF partnered with the American Association of University Women Marquette Branch to lead its first Marquette workshop at the Peter White Public Library on Tuesday.

AAUW member Ruth Ziel said her and Marquette County Clshek Linda Talsma found that only 20% of registered voters vote in local elections.

“The thought was to try and brainstorm with a group of people why this is and how can we do better,” Ziel said. “What might be some strategies to get the public to engage more in local elections, especially when they’re not tied to state and national elections.”

Ziel said in her opinion, having a low voter turnout means not getting a broad perspective and in some respects, “create even more of a divide.”

“Local elections is where we can really have our voice heard, because if you don’t like something that your council board is doing or your city council, you have the option of actually going in and talking to these people or attending a meeting and you get a chance to speak,” Ziel said. “I think rather than getting mad because things aren’t going the way you want, I think we need to recognize as citizens (that) we also have an obligation to turnout for elections and give those elections some thought.”

Grace Leslie, student at Northern Michigan University and member of the nonpartisan group Northern Votes, was one of the several attendees at Tuesday’s workshop.

She said the workshop plays into what Northern Votes wants to accomplish, which is getting people interested in local elections.

“Young people are the future, so getting interested early is very important and just creating those habits of voting to continue for the rest of their lives,” Leslie said.

Leslie said the group is working on a campus vote project to connect students with local commissioners. She said the connection will help students become interested in issues that are going on in Marquette.

This November, Marquette City Commission and Marquette Board of Light and Power are looking to fill seats.

The Marquette City Commission is looking to fill three seats for a three-year term. Candidates are Margaret Brumm, Jessica Hanley, Cody Mayer, Paul Schoegel, Corey Swanson and Sarah Wiensch.

The Marquette Board of Light and Power is looking to fill two seats for a three-year term. Candidates are Dave Campana, Jerry Irby, Douglas McMahon and John Sonderegger.

The general election for the city of Marquette will be Tuesday, Nov. 7.

For more information, visit votersnotpoliticians.com.

Dreyma Beronja can be reached at 906-228-2500 ext. 548. Their email address is dberonj@miningjournal.net.


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