The "Empowering Voters. Defending Democracy." Awards reflect the Leagues' vision for a democracy where every person has the desire, the right, the knowledge and the confidence to participate.

Applications were reviewed by a panel of LWVUS staff and finalists were selected in each category. Voting is now open and the winners will be announced on June 30 at the Convention banquet. 

Community Connection - This category aims to highlight how Leagues have leveraged issues affecting their local community in order to engage new voters and/or protect voters' rights, especially among underrepresented communities.

Finalists - VOTE HERE

LWV of Berkeley Albany Emeryville (CA)

The League undertook a joint effort with Berkeley High School's Vote16 Club. Vote16 and the League created a three-stage, multi-pronged campaign that targeted the youth population in Berkeley, specifically focusing on sixteen to eighteen year-olds. This population is typically unaware that they are able to pre-register to vote and additionally, they typically have very low voter turnout. Berkeley High School also has a racially diverse group of students, and this group is underrepresented in the political sphere. In 2016, Berkeley sixteen and seventeen year-olds won the right to vote for school board, so there was an additional education component to inform students about their new rights. The first stage is voter registration, the second is voter education for the November election, and the third stage will be a focus on getting out the vote.

There were fifteen students who served as organizers and twenty-five League and community members who supported the students in this campaign. Both students and League members received training on registering students to vote, best practices, and sensitivity training around students who are ineligible to vote. Through a combination of fairs, classroom presentations, announcements at assemblies, and lunch-time activities, volunteers were able to register 350 students to vote and connect with over 2,000 students. As a result of this campaign, the League and Vote16 made a successful presentation to the Berkeley School Board that won support for continuous voter education weeks in the Fall and Spring. Over the Summer, the League will be working to create a retreat for students to empower them to facilitate the creation of these voter education weeks at their schools.

LWV of Greater Pittsburgh (PA)

Between July and November, 2016, LWVGP collaborated with Pittsburgh public television station, WQED, to be the first topic in their issues based series Think!. WQED asked to build on the Leagues Living with Guns project which began in 2013. The populations targeted by the Think! Project is the general population plus, in this program, advocates for gun ownership and gun control. The under-represented communities specifically affected by guns in this project were: public school students in urban and suburban districts including Pittsburgh, gun clubs and instructors promoting gun safety training, mental health workers and volunteer groups working with the mentally ill, volunteer organizations that work with families affected by gun violence, black and white church congregations trying to help families destroyed or made dysfunctional by guns, and 2nd amendment rights organizations.

The League collaborated with The Art of Democracy (a Pittsburgh facilitator of the Deliberative Democracy approach to citizen engagement) in conducting a number of public forums on these topics: Mental Health and Guns; Promoting Gun Safety as a Cultural Norm; and The Economic Impact of Guns in our Communities. The entire LWVGP project has involved more than 500 individuals since 2013. Between July and November 2016, approximately 120 people participated. 

A component of every forum and discussion in this project inevitably included voting and the need for increased voter participation. People are desperate for solutions and we talked about what individuals could do personally, what the private sector could do and what governments at all levels could do. The participants gained insights into what is currently happening and what could happen with citizen involvement in all three areas. 

LWV of Naperville (IL)

Sunday, March 11, nine days before the March 20, 2018 Primary Elections, League of Women Voters Naperville launched "Stroll to the Polls." LWVN worked with Indian Prairie School District 204's American Government teachers to identify four precincts with some of the lowest voter turnout in Naperville Township and drew up walking routes based on the precinct maps. On March 11, student volunteers met at a local coffee shop and went out in pairs to canvass door-to-door, encouraging eligible voters to vote in the upcoming primary election. Four current LWVN members participated, along with four high school teachers from IPSD204, and 69 high school students, for a total of 77 people actively involved.

This program was designed to serve new voters and future voters (high school students) by getting them actively engaged in the election process, hopefully beginning a lifetime of civic involvement. The program also served current voters in precincts with low voter turnout by giving them nonpartisan election information and encouraging them to vote in their primary election. After canvassing, some students were so enthusiastic that they went over to the mall to vote early.

When the voting results were finally released voting in our target precincts was up 101%.