SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) – On Tuesday, the South Dakota legislative session starts. And then eight days after that in Washington, President-elect Joe Biden is set to take the oath of office. With so many things happening on both the local and national level, you are able to be engaged in what’s happening in government.

Dr. Julia Hellwege, an assistant professor of political science at USD, says our democracy can fall apart rapidly.

“I think I would want Americans to understand that it takes all of us to work at our democracy and that when we see actions of injustice, that we need to recognize that we also can come at fault. Instances of injustice can happen here as well and that we need to call those out and recognize them and continue to work at our democracy,” Hellwege said.

But how can we each work to strengthen it?

“We need to continue to be engaged. We need to continue to vote. And we need to hold our representatives accountable, even when, and maybe, perhaps, especially when, they are members of our own party,” Hellwege said.

“Obviously, our elected officials have their own opinions, thoughts and ideas, but it is important for people to remember that we voted them into office so they do represent us. So, they should be asking, you know, the people in the community that they represent what they feel about certain topics,” Janna Farley, communications director for ACLU of South Dakota, said.

The next steps following whatever happens in this building can be holding officials accountable.

“Contact your elected officials and let them know what you think about a certain bill. If you’ve got, you know, personal experience with something that is going to be, you know, debated on in a House or Senate committee, you can share those experiences. Or you know, just share your opinion with them as well,” Farley said.

Farley says that can be done through in-person testimony, emails, phone calls or even a postcard.

South Dakota’s 2021 legislative session begins on Tuesday; there are 37 legislative days scheduled.