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Stories From Around the State
The finalists for the Strengthening Democracy Power the Vote Award successfully mobilized their grassroots network to promote change in their state or community around priority issues. Leagues showed their commitment to democracy through their voter outreach, education and advocacy.
We received so many excellent applications this year and we want to thank and commend all Leagues for their outstanding and innovative program work. The finalists stood out for their efforts in this award area. Please read about their projects below and use the grid to rank them in order of your favorite project.
Winners will be announced at the 2012 Convention at the Banquet on June 11, 2012.
The LWV of Minnesota has made defeating Voter ID laws their main priority. In 2011 a voter ID bill passed the Legislature and was vetoed by the Governor of Minnesota. The Minnesota Legislature passed a ballot measure to amend the constitution to bypass the veto and this now goes to the citizens of Minnesota to vote on in November. Sixty percent of the population supports the proposal, so the LWV of Minnesota and the 39 local Leagues have been working to educate the public on the real impact of Voter ID. They produced a video to tell the story of voters who would be prevented from voting if this amendment passes titled: “Democracy for All? The Barriers of Voter ID.” Watch the Video on their Website.
The Leagues in Minnesota are utilizing various avenues to spread the word, including leading a voting rights coalition that includes more than 50 non-profit organizations that have signed on to the Protect Our Vote Campaign to defeat the amendment and become part of a trained speakers bureau throughout the state. They are using social networking platforms such as Twitter and Facebook to release 2-minute video clips about the project to expand their network, engage new groups in effort and educate the public to defeat the amendment.
The League of Women Voters of Mobile, AL began its Vote 18 project in March 2010. For the past two years they have worked in the inner city schools to provide voter education to youth and with Welfare-to-Work employment readiness programs to reach additional first-time voters. LWV of Mobile held over 100 different sessions and had more than 2,000 people participate in sessions to help with their voter registration form submissions.
The League also created a “Power the Vote” PSA with student input and voices for use in schools. Students participation was key to having peer voices reach other young people in the community to reinforce the message of “Power the Vote”. The League actively used Facebook and www.Vote411.org to inform voters and were visible in the media by writing Op-Ed articles for the general public titled “Don’t Vote in the Dark”. The Vote 18 project and other voter education work has created energy and buzz in the community for the League which has helped increased its membership numbers and grow its leadership ranks. Find additional information on their website.
The League of Women Voters of Texas’ project “Promote Texas Voting” works to increase voter participation in the state of Texas; which had the lowest voter turnout of all the states in 2010. The League held seminars in 2011 entitled “Engaging Youth Voters” which included a contest at area High Schools to create a nonpartisan PSA. They also created a comic book that explained Texas voting in English and Spanish for distribution this summer (2012). Leagues in Texas are partnering with organizations such as NAACP, MALDEF, LULAC, youth groups and Texans with Disabilities to increase voting in underrepresented communities. They are providing voter education information through Vote411 and the distribution of Voter Guides in both English and Spanish.
The League has been very active in advocating to protect voter rights through efforts to oppose a photo ID requirements and unfair redistricting maps. They have actively opposed Photo ID requirements at the state legislative levels and experienced an initial victory when the federal Department of Justice refused to pre-clear this requirement. They have also been involved in redistricting litigation and have seen court ordered interim maps including some positive changes. Find additional information on their website.
The LWV of South Carolina’s “Save All Votes” voter campaign was kicked off in the spring of 2009 and continues successfully serve South Carolinians whose voting rights are at risk from legislative attempts to enact barriers to voting. The League is focusing on those who are elderly, low-income, disabled, minorities, immigrants and students. LWV of South Carolina has created and organized a partnership of non-profit organizations and community groups whose constituencies include these populations. The partnership’s diverse make-up has enabled a greater outreach effort. They have a very high participation level among SC local Leagues, coalition partners and community groups.
The League is partnering with other organizations to reach a high level of attention to the issues. They have been conducting Statehouse press conferences, writing op-eds and letters to the editor in addition to interviews on radio and TV talk shows. The groups are distributing informational documents and using social media like Facebook to inform and mobilize the public. The League has been averaging one invitation a week from diverse civic groups to attend their meetings and speak on voting rights. Find additional information on their website.member abstract:Vote here for your favorite Strengthening Democracy project!
The finalists for the Effective Member Engagement Power the Vote Award showed their commitment to building their League while engaging the community. Leagues focused on their energy on the voters in their community by being visible and increasing membership—old and new—at their events.
We received so many excellent applications this year and we want to thank and commend all Leagues for their outstanding and innovative program work. The chosen finalists were among the best of the applicants. Please read about their projects below and use the grid to rank them in order of your favorite project.
Winners will be announced at the 2012 Convention at the Banquet on June 11, 2012.
The League of Women Voters of Saint Paul organized five projects to keep members engaged, increase volunteers and recruitment. Member engagement efforts included relocating monthly meetings to senior housing and civic hosting to increase accessibility and promote participation of inactive members. Other initiatives included Ranked Voting presentations at community events, Smart Chick Happy hour, well-publicized candidate forums and voter registration outreach to students, elderly, general community and minorities.
The League of Women Voters of Saint Paul's election related work impacted membership recruitment by creating a heightened presence in the community and in the local media. Partnerships with community organizations successfully recruited new volunteers as well as familiar faces that have not been active in the last few years. In addition the LWV of Saint Paul increased youth visibility by partnering with colleges to provide scholarships for college students to attend in the LWV-MN leadership seminar. In order to receive the scholarship students were required to volunteer or intern with the League. Offering scholarships in partnership with college has recruited interns and possibly future Leaguers.
Over the past 15 years the League of Women Voters Minnesota has been an active presence at citizenship ceremonies. Since 2006, the League has increased their efforts by helping future citizens fill out voter registration forms and collecting completed voter registration forms when they officially became citizens. In 2011, the League of Minnesota registered over 9,000 new voters at 75 ceremonies in over 100 counties. Voter registration at citizenship ceremonies has empowered both new voters and LWV members. New citizens are enthusiastic about the opportunity to vote and local Leagues have re-energized both new members and active members through their work.
In response to the effectiveness of their presence at naturalization ceremonies, LWVMN notes: “one measure of success is the number of times we are asked if our picture may be taken with a family member or friend as they turn in their voter registration form.” For their efforts LWVMN has been recognized by the African Development Council, the Latino Business Council and the Secretary of State. As a result of their participation in citizenship ceremonies and larger participation in teaching citizens and “not yet-citizens” how they can be involved in democracy, the League is seen as organization which is comfortable with the immigrant community and fosters civic engagement.
The League of Voters of Palm Beach County (PBC) went to new heights to promote the importance of voting and increase visibility of League. The League organized an event entitled “Jump for the Vote” as the kickoff to the League’s Voter Service Initiative “Jump into Election Year.” On January 28, 2012 four members of the Palm Beach County League ages 50 to 70, including the PBC Clerk and Comptroller participated in a tandem skydive. The skydive was aimed to “attract the attention of the media, voters and prospective voters in Palm Beach County and to make them aware that the League of PBC believed unequivocally in the privilege, responsibility and importance of voting!” They reached members of the community by effectively using social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook.
The event saw immediate impact as the local television and print media featured coverage of “Jump for the Vote” for two days which increased visibility of the League, voter education and outreach initiatives. The “Jump for the Vote” also created enthusiasm among the PBC community. As a result, The Palm Beach County League has seen an increase in membership, member engagement and public attendance at their events.
In order to effectively engage the members of the League of Women Voters of Westport Connecticut, they organized a project entitled “My Town, My Vote.” My Town, My Vote was a unified and coordinated effort in the months leading up to the November 2011 local elections. The objective of the project was to raise awareness about the importance of voting in Westport elections and to increase voter turnout in local elections. The project was multifaceted, including a series of press releases, an informational brochure, an eye catching logo, attendance at major town events and public places, and voter outreach to new voters and local high schools.
Member engagement efforts also featured a documentary video produced by two members which highlights the impact of local issues on town citizens and how voting and being involved can influence these local issues. Aside from community outreach the My Town, My Vote was a great opportunity to involve new/less active members in the chance to facilitate the visibility of the LWV in the local community and become acquainted with other local LWV members. Furthermore, the Chairs of the Democratic and Republican Town committee were active participants in planning the campaign and are now more involved in League activities as members.
By: Sara Sanders
LWVUS Board and staff will be training some 30 League leaders from 9 states in Houston, TX on Friday, April 13 until Sunday, April 15, 2012. The training will bring together individuals who have volunteered to be state coaches as part of the Membership and Leadership Development (MLD) program, funded by the Fund for Local League Growth.