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Towson University student Luke Monroe, from Parkville, casts a ballot at the college last April during early voting for Maryland's primary election. A series designed to help the community better understand how the American political system works launches this week at the Towson Library.
Towson University student Luke Monroe, from Parkville, casts a ballot at the college last April during early voting for Maryland's primary election. A series designed to help the community better understand how the American political system works launches this week at the Towson Library. (File photo by Brian Krista / Baltimore Sun Media Group)

Unsure about how political conventions work? How about the electoral college system? Starting tonight at 7 p.m., the Voices on Government series is bringing political experts to the Towson Library to answer those questions and more ahead of this November's presidential election.

Tonight's discussion, titled, "Party Conventions," will focus on the upcoming Republican and Democratic conventions, along with representatives from the Green Party. Talks will begin with an explanation of the delegates, whose votes secure each candidate's nomination. Next, a Maryland state delegate will explain how the conventions work. National committee members from the Democratic and Republican parties will then describe what their party platforms will likely be following each convention. A Green Party representative will also explain that party's platform. Finally, the floor will be opened to questions.

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"In these times of polarization, with people talking past each other, it's important that we have these types of open discussions in public places," said Lauren Edwards, a University of Maryland, Baltimore County assistant professor and organizer of the event.

Edwards, who teaches classes on public policy at UMBC, said she was inspired to organize the eight-part series after realizing that many people struggle with understanding how politics work in America.

"In the four years after the last election, it seems like all of a sudden we're confused about it again," Edwards said.

The League of Women Voters of Baltimore County were also looking to continue a partnership with the Towson Library to offer programs centered on election issues. Founded in 1920, the league is a non-partisan organization dedicated to getting women involved in the political process.

The organization joined forces with Edwards to make the series possible, said Jennifer Haire, a member of the league's board. The series was also supported by the Friends of the Towson Library and the work of Julie Brophy, director of adult services for the Baltimore County Public Library. Haire, who previously worked for the library, saw a need for election information when the once print-only voter's guide would fly off the shelves during election season, she said, adding that the key to the series is bringing a variety of expert speakers and viewpoints to the audience.

"We don't want to tell people what to think," Haire said. "We're on a learning curve, just like our audience."

Experts for the series, who include Maryland Del. Chris West, of Towson, and Towson University Assistant Professor John McTague, come from Baltimore County, Virginia and national think tanks. Edwards said she wanted to include a wide variety of election topics.

"We wanted to think about which topics were most useful when," Edwards said.

Other topics in the series include gerrymandering, media in politics, money in politics, and the electoral college. The series runs through Nov. 10, when an "election wrap-up" is scheduled.

"We want to help people feel confident down the road when it's time to vote," Haire said.

"Voices on Government" schedule

August 16, 7 p.m. – Gerrymandering

September 13, 7 p.m. – Media in Politics

September 25, 2 p.m. – Big Government versus Small Government

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October 13, 7 p.m. – Money in Politics

October 16, 2 p.m. – Immigration

October 25, 7 p.m. – Electoral College

November 10, 7 p.m. – Election wrap-up

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