Have you ever felt powerless in politics? Like your voice isn’t heard and your vote won’t make a difference? In today’s political environment, it’s easy to feel disillusioned about voting. I’ve definitely felt that way. So many young people have too.

Today I’m writing as the executive director of Forward Montana, a statewide organization that is working to change this perception of powerlessness. We understand that politics is an unfriendly place. We understand young voices often get ignored. So we are doing something about it.

The inaccessibility of the candidates running for office, and the lack of information on those candidates, is one barrier to voting. That’s why we bring candidates to you.

In advance of the primary election this June, we went to four different cities in western Montana with candidates for MT-01, Montana’s Western District for Congress. It was a whirlwind week filled with heartfelt moments, like a hug between a Republican and Democrat candidate when they discovered they shared a birthday.

The week also had tense moments that reminded us just how different Montanan’s beliefs can be. Despite stark divides in approaches to policy solutions, all candidates had one thing in common: they respected each other for showing up for voters.

Between long form questions that touched on issues young Montanans feel passionate about and rapid response questions that reminded us these candidates are people that can be silly and goofy, attendees were able to connect in meaningful ways. Many attendees submitted audience questions and found the candidates after the forum to further pick their brains and make their voices heard.

I watched these forums with our team of staff and volunteers and left the week with one feeling: hope. Hope for the future of our democracy and our state. These forums demonstrated what politics can and should be: voter-centric, policy-focused, accessible. When tensions run high, we can still laugh and find compassion for each other. That’s what makes Montana so special.

We should be incredibly proud of the fact Montana is the first state in the nation to regain a Congressional seat. This was only possible because you filled out a Census form to get you and your household accurately counted in the 2020 Census. It was a community effort to give our state the resources it deserves and needs.

Now, let’s come together to vote for our new leader. The Primary election takes place on June 7th. You’ll have a choice; you can either vote in the Republican primary, or in the Democratic primary. That’s another thing that makes Montana so special! Our open primaries allow each voter to decide how to make their voice heard.

Don’t forget, ballots need to be turned in by 8 pm on Election Day. Ballots received late won’t count. Please, use your voice and your vote this June. For more information, head to forwardmontana.org/voterhub frb