Bernie barnstorm

Attending local meetings of political parties and candidates are ways to get involved with the political process. Josh Visnaw, Oklahoma state director for the Bernie Sanders 2020 campaign, right, talks to a group in the Tahlequah Public Library Rawls Room Thursday night. Attendees include, front row from left: Linda Roberts and Dell Barnes. Back row: Newell McCarty, Liam McAlpin, Kiana McAlpin, and Gary McAlpin.

With the Oklahoma Presidential Primary Election about six weeks away, local voters may be looking for ways to support their candidate of choice. Contacting political organizations and actively sharing candidates' platforms are among the suggestions.

Dell Barnes, Cherokee County Democrats vice chair, said that as county leadership, the group does not really get involved in primaries.

"We don't specifically endorse anybody in primary campaigns. After primaries, we all will pull behind the candidate," he said. "Personally, I am volunteering with the Bernie Sanders 2020 campaign."

Barnes said the Sanders group has local meetings to discuss issues, hear from campaign representatives, and schedule times for canvassing and phone banks.

"We get them added to our Facebook group so they have access to information and know what's going on locally," said Barnes.

The presidential campaigns for Sens. Sanders and Elizabeth Warren had separate barnstorming meetings this week in Tahlequah.

The Warren For President campaign said barnstorms are a way to bring interested people and volunteers together so they can get motivated and start "self-organizing events to reach out to other voters in their communities." Through this process, campaign representatives hope to build momentum and have people lined up who are willing to organize more events or create action for the candidates.

Justin Kennedy, chair of the local Young Republicans, said volunteers are important, especially for candidates who don't have a lot of money to spend.

"It doesn't take a lot of time. If you spend 30 minutes to an hour holding a sign for someone, they appreciate it," said Kennedy. "It's important for locals to make their beliefs known - what you stand for - and exercise your rights before they'll be forgotten."

One of the best ways to get involved with politics and connect with people is to attend the local parties' regular meetings. Most have guest speakers so community members can learn about candidates and platforms, and the meetings are a time to network.

"People at meetings, myself included, have contacts for candidates," said Josh Owen, chair of the Cherokee County Republican Party and vice chair of the Cherokee County Young Republicans. "I think it's not just political campaigns; it's getting active in everything in the political process. At the end of the day, they're making the laws that affect you. Help whoever will represent you the best."

Barnes is of the same mindset. He said that along with getting a candidate's name in the public eye by being in parades or a part of community events, volunteers can help by talking to friends and family about the political process, and by carrying blank voter registration forms.

"It's about educating people. Post links. Help them by looking up the Oklahoma Voter Portal. You can verify registrations and request absentee ballots," he said. "Oklahoma is not yet set up with online registration, but it's something we definitely want to do."

Feb. 7 is the last day to register to vote in the presidential primary.

"There have been voter purges in Oklahoma, including Cherokee County," Barnes said. "It can get rectified pretty quickly at the county election board."

Most political parties will have contact information on their websites, and local political organizations have an online presence, be it websites and-or Facebook pages, as well as monthly email updates.

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