Other Opinion: Don't forget about township elections on Tuesday
With the "Super Tuesday" presidential primary now in the history books, it's time for many everyday citizens to tend to their next civic duty — township elections.
Minnesota’s 1,781 townships will hold annual town meeting on Tuesday, March 10. Many of the townships, will also hold their annual elections that day. Although there will be only a handful of contested races (in many counties), it's still important for township residents to get out there, vote, attend their township meeting and share ideas and concerns with their township officials.
Known as Township Day, these annual meetings are held every year on the second Tuesday in March. Residents of the townships meet to voice their opinions about local issues with other township residents and also vote directly on their annual tax levy. Citizens attending annual meetings also often discuss and vote on other local issues. The Minnesota Association of Townships describes the process as "direct democracy in action."
“Township Day gives a direct voice to residents of townships, said David Hann, the association's executive director. "The annual meeting is an opportunity to participate in local government. Residents meet and discuss issues with their town board, and vote on the proposed tax levy.”
“Township communities come together to shape their government from the grassroots up," Hann added. "Whether they are electing new local officers or voting on the annual tax levy, these annual meetings are important to the direct democracy of townships."
The association provided the following information about Minnesota's townships:
- There are approximately 914,174 township residents in 1,781 townships in Minnesota. Townships exist in every area of the state, including the metropolitan area. Some, with populations of more than 1,000, function in much the same way as a small city. While many townships remain rural agricultural centers, other host a variety of residential, light commercial, and industrial development.
- The tradition of a town meeting has roots in colonial America. New England town meetings gave citizens a way to exercise local authority. Those meetings were especially important in the development of democracy because it emphasized problem-solving through group efforts.
- Townships were the original form of local government in Minnesota, established in the 1800s when Congress ordered a survey that divided the Minnesota territory into 36 square mile tracts of land. Today, the term “township” generally refers to public corporations governed by a local board of supervisors and created to provide services to residents.
- The Minnesota Association of Townships is a nonprofit corporation representing Minnesota townships. Its goals are educational and charitable, promoting an understanding of the history of townships and being a voice for its roughly 9,000 officers. It regularly conducts research and educational programs designed to foster efficient and economical town governmental services and acts as a liaison between township officers and other local government officials to encourage sustained cooperation.