The 2018 election will determine the direction of our state and country for years to come. As opposing party chairs, we may not agree on what exactly that direction should be, but we do agree on one thing: You should attend your local precinct caucus on Feb. 6.

Minnesota will be the epicenter of politics in 2018, and precinct caucuses are where it all begins. With two U.S. Senate seats, four swing congressional races and an open governorship on the ballot, there’s a lot at stake this election in Minnesota. Precinct caucuses are the first time you have an opportunity to get out and influence the direction of these races.

While they may sound mysterious, precinct caucuses are quite simple. They are neighborhood-level meetings that each political party holds early in an election year. Neighbors gather to begin endorsing candidates, electing delegates and debating resolutions to shape the party platform. (Find your precinct caucus here or here or here.)

Never been to a political meeting before? No problem. Any Minnesotan who will be eligible to vote in the November election and shares the party’s values can participate. In fact, Republican Chairwoman Jennifer Carnahan’s first time involved with the state GOP was attending her local precinct caucus last election. Whether you hope to get involved making phone calls, knocking on doors — or even becoming the next party chair — attending your local caucus is a great way to get started.

You will impact the direction of your party just by showing up. The delegates you select will represent your precinct in the nomination process going forward. The resolutions you consider will help determine where the party stands on issues important to you. The enthusiasm you bring will energize your party heading into this critical election year.

You will also have the opportunity to vote for your favorite candidate for governor. Party members throughout the state will participate in this “straw poll,” officially known as a gubernatorial preference ballot, which will provide a snapshot of candidates’ strength and momentum in both parties.

Precinct caucuses allow for democracy from the grass roots. Gathered in school gymnasiums, local community centers and town halls, Minnesotans across the state will come together with their neighbors and set the course for our parties in this pivotal election. Caucuses guarantee that everyday Minnesotans drive our parties — so stand up, be counted, and make your voice heard on Feb. 6!

Ken Martin is chair of the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party. Jennifer Carnahan is chair of the Republican Party of Minnesota.