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 at on June 30 at the Convention banquet.
Strengthening Democracy — This category is to showcase the work of Leagues that activate their grassroots network to empower voters and advocate change around key issues such as protecting voting rights or increasing voter registration and turnout.
State Finalists - VOTE HERE
LWV of Arizona
LWV Arizona hosted its first statewide public event, "Voters' Rights Summit - Removing Barriers to the Ballot Box" with the focus of "protecting the right to vote."
The goal of the 8 hour Summit was to gather individuals, organizations, elected officials, educators, students, election-law experts, and anyone interested in voting issues, to hear a rich diversity of speakers, explore problems and solutions, and work together to identify ways to expand, protect, and promote a positive voting experience. The League worked to provide a dynamic environment where participants could exchange ideas, brainstorm strategies, network, and leave energized, empowered, informed, and ready to take action.
The Summit featured 10 speakers, morning and afternoon breakout sessions, and 59 volunteers. Speakers included state legislators, election officials, professors, election attorneys, advocates for voters' rights, and those with personal voting stories. The Summit carried out the League's mission of educating and engaging voters, brought much positive recognition to the League, attracting 300 attendees, and adding 90 new members. Many attendees had not heard of League before, thus had a chance to learn what we stand for and are doing. In addition, it sparked new enthusiasm in existing members.
Five elected County Recorders attended, some so impressed that they indicated a desire to work with Leagues on future endeavors, thus nurturing and furthering the goal of working collaboratively with elected officials.
Another significant outcome of the Summit was the creation of an ACTION Guide, "Steps to Producing a Successful LWV Local, State, or National Event," a great resource for all Leagues.
LWV of Ohio
"Fair Districts=Fair Elections" is a campaign to end gerrymandering in Ohio by using a citizens' initiative to get congressional redistricting on the November 2018 statewide ballot. The LWV of Ohio has been working on redistricting for decades and joined coalition partners in collecting more than 200,000 signatures between May 2017 and February 2018--getting close enough to the number necessary to put immense pressure on the Ohio legislature. Both political parties--after intense negotiations--agreed to compromise with the coalition and to put that bipartisan compromise on the May 8 ballot. This has led to a VOTE YES campaign to make sure voters understand the issue and vote on Primary Election Day.
The project was undertaken in the winter of 2016-17, when a draft of a necessary Ohio constitutional amendment was written, then a draft of clear and legal ballot language. The language of both was reviewed and presented to Ohio officials. Then thousands of petitions were printed and distributed to Leagues and their partners across the state. petitions printed and distributed across the state. By late spring, thousands of petitions were picked up by volunteers who fanned out into every community in every one of Ohio's 88 counties. League volunteers went to street fairs, community meetings, holiday events, public squares and grocery stores; walked through neighborhoods in cities and small towns; discussed the issues at club meetings and religious halls. Voters were eager to sign when we explained how districts were made now and what we wanted to do to change them.
Efforts became more visible as more and more signatures were gathered. Newspapers and radio stations started mentioning the petition drive and many have now endorsed the May ballot issue, Issue 1. It has also been endorsed by the NAACP, the state Republican Party and the state Democratic Party.
LWV of Wisconsin
Wisconsin is one of the few states where elections are administered at the municipal level—not the county level. With 1,852 cities, towns, and villages in the state, discrepancies in election administration are bound to occur. To understand what takes place in the polls in different parts of the state, the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin launched a pilot initiative called the Wisconsin Election Observation Program in 2010 with 15 volunteer observers in 18 polling sites. Since then the program has grown to involve 250 volunteer observers in 511 polling places statewide for major elections and the League has continued to update and improve the training and reporting.
The Election Observation Program in Wisconsin is a hybrid of traditional election observation and protection programs in that volunteer observers are trained to both observe and record the election process at the polling site as well as assist any voters who are turned away for any reason at the polls to ensure all eligible voters cast their ballot. The observers' notes are compiled into a report. In turn, the League uses the report of gathered data to advocate for better elections. The League's observer reports have received good coverage in state and national news media. In addition, the reports are shared with lawmakers, election officials, and partnering good government organizations.
This program has been an important source of information about how the many new voting laws and procedures have affected voters. The findings have led to specific improvements in training of local officials and in polling place The findings have led to specific improvements in training of local officials and in polling place procedures related to voter registration, management of observers, and accommodations for disabled voters.