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As part of the 2018 Elections Exchange program, ACYPL welcomed three delegates from Botswana, three from Kenya and three from South Africa in late October. The Afrika Leadership Institute, Hanns Seidel Stiftung Foundation, and the Organization for Youth and Elections in Botswana assisted in selecting the delegation, which represented views across the political spectrum.
The delegates were pleased that the Washington, DC programming was so diverse. For example, the opposing perspectives on voting rights from the Heritage Foundation and The Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law created a key topic of interest. Additionally, the delegates particularly enjoyed the discussions about US campaign finance law and the role of the media in politics.
The Minnesota programming shifted the focus away from national politics and explored every aspect of the local elections process where they were hosted by ACYPL Alum and Hennipen County Commissioner Mike Opat. After a briefing at the County Commissioners’ office about key ballot issues, they met with numerous candidates for national and local office; including Congresswoman-Elect Ilhan Omar and Governor-Elect Tim Walz. The delegation was also able to attend campaign rallies and election night watch parties. A major highlight was traveling to several polling locations across the Minneapolis-Saint Paul metropolitan area on Election Day and observing the elections process in action.
The program occurred at an interesting time for this group as many of them are beginning to campaign for their own local elections. At a luncheon with county and state representatives, the delegates were able to share their personal campaign experiences and learn about different fundraising techniques and grassroots mechanisms to encourage youth participation that would be helpful in their own upcoming elections. This networking experience left the delegates with meaningful information and newly formed relationships with Minnesota local and state leaders.
This delegation was also able to visit some of Minnesota’s attractions, including the Mall of America, the Minneapolis Art Institute, and the US Bank Stadium. Overall, the delegates greatly enjoyed this exchange. Oikanyeng Moahi from Botswana commented, “The program is excellent, an eye opener for young political leaders as it exposes them to ways elections are conducted in democratically mature States.”