Joanna Lindberg is the Get-Out-the-Vote co-chairperson for the LWV of Greater Omaha. She shared with us the different ways that her League has applied a diversity, equity and inclusion lens to their voter education and voter turnout efforts has made their work more impactful and how it has strengthened the League.
ACTION: Build and foster relationships with each community to help understand and meet their needs.
Through their work at naturalization ceremonies over the past several years, the LWV of Greater Omaha (LWVGO) has been able to build relationships with different ethnic groups in their community. Beyond the initial interaction at the ceremonies (which includes a flier and video on “3 Steps to Voting” in 5 languages), they have engaged with different organizations and institutions in the Sudanese-American and Burmese-American communities, primarily working on voter registration and voter engagement. Over time they have developed such a trusted relationship that LWVGO was asked to administer the overseas vote for the election that decided South Sudan’s independence!
The League has targeted other groups of new voters, too, including high school students. They have focused their efforts on high schools in areas with low voter turnout while providing tools and resources for all teachers in the district via a relationship established with the Social Studies District Wide Curriculum Director. They elevated a train-the-trainer model that allows the impact of limited League volunteers to be multiplied.
While the impact of their efforts on our democracy may be obvious, the League reports several benefits to the League as well, including:
- Increased membership. They have grown significantly over the past 5 years, and their members are engaged. Joanna reports that they are recruiting people who want to make a difference and want to see change in the community. Voter registration and outreach are the League’s top priorities, and their members are backing that up. They have 28 events scheduled in August and September, and over one-third of their League’s impressive 300+ person membership are trained to be voter registrars! They also have established a mentor program for new members to help engage them quickly and start them on a path to leadership.
- Visibility and reputation. By meeting community groups “where they are” and providing the kinds of resources and expertise that people need, the League is now sought out by community groups and institutions! As Joanna says, “They know us.”
RECOMMENDATION: Get to know all parts of your community. Learn what they need and partner with them to create the greatest impact.
When asked about what advice she wanted to share, Joanna suggested that Leagues develop a relationship with the election officials in their community first and foremost. They can help to provide an overview of gaps, challenges, and possible roles for LWV.
Then, it is about building relationships. This means going to communities, engaging them in discussions about what is needed, and identifying ways to partner for impact – sometimes leading and sometimes following. LWVGO member Linda Duckworth is a leader in the Annual Women's International Day at University of Nebraska Omaha.
For example, they have learned that teachers can be very successful in implementing League-designed tools to get high schoolers registered to vote. However, one need that was identified was how to get materials to teachers and get registrations filed in a timely manner. The League now fills this gap to ensure that the registration process is seamless.
In that same vein, they have learned that it is sometimes better to let others lead. How could they get homeless registered or those in county jails? They are helping other community groups and institutions to reach those goals by providing behind-the-scenes support and resources.
Barb Clark is the Executive for Business (part of their League’s core leadership team) of the LWV of Greater Lafayette in Indiana. She shared actions taken at their board’s leadership transition meeting last year to help them identify how their League could move forward with diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) work.
Betsy Cushman is the Voter Service Chair of the LWV of Dearborn/Dearborn Heights in Michigan . She shared with us how their League has worked to partner with local Arab-American and Muslim communities through their Youth Voter Registration Project and offered diversity training to their volunteers to assist with voter registration and engagement.