Congratulations to the four winners of the 2014 Power: Our Voices, Our Votes Awards!
The past biennium has been an exceptional time for the League. We’ve seen huge successes in increasing our impact at every level of League, a wide range of exciting programs aimed at connecting Leagues more fully with their communities, membership growth, and an increase in visibility across the country. The 2014 Power: Our Voices, Our Votes Awards are our way of celebrating just a few of the phenomenal projects that Leagues have been doing nationwide. We had numerous applicants in all four award categories and 4 finalists were selected by a board committee. The winning entries emphasized their work around elections and advocacy, mobilizing their grassroots and visibility while finding opportunities for organizational growth.
Of the 16 finalists, each winner was chosen by you! Thank you to each of you for your participation in picking this year’s winners.
Effective Member Engagement and Recruitment: This category is for democracy-building programs and activities that are innovative and have been successful in gaining visibility and recruiting new members.
Winner: LWV of Miami-Dade County (FL): LWV of Miami-Dade County conducted a series of 18 events from July 2012 to March 2014 titled "Cocktails & Conversation" which successfully targeted young professionals by combining a relevant community issue with networking opportunities. Events were conducted countywide at exciting new venues, where the LWVMD paid for appetizers, and venues sponsored drink specials. Due to these events, membership increased by 64 percent and many newly recruited members have become actively involved in leadership roles. The LWVMD has under gone a membership transformation from veteran, experienced members to securing/engaging new/young members who have taken on projects and leadership within the organization.
Finalist: LWV of Pasadena (CA): LWV of Pasadena has had a successful project recruiting new members and retaining existing members after a number of years where they struggled to retain membership. The President and Membership Director started having small monthly dinner parties--for prospective members as well as members (especially targeting those up for renewal and/or members who had previously not been engaged). The format is: Everyone shares (1) about themselves and (2) about the issues which concern them. There is no cross talk until everyone shares. These dinners involved about 160 people. Since July 2012 their membership has increased by 12%.
Finalist: LWV of the Oberlin Area (OH): Starting in August, 2013, Oberlin became the target of a group supporting concealed carry gun laws because the city did not allow guns in city parks. The group’s advocates demonstrated a number of times in local parks and then sued the city. LWVOA spoke out at city council meetings, reached out to other city groups, gave testimony in Columbus, and held a 'pizza & politics' night to discuss lobbying efforts, attracting 80 people, including city council and school board members at which eleven new members signed up. This recruitment success shows that Oberlinians see LWVOA as being at the forefront on this issue. LWVOA has gained around 40 members since 2012.
Finalist: LWV of the Cincinnati Area (OH): “Act One: Hands On Civics in Cincinnati” is a new program launched in October 2013 by LWV of the Cincinnati Area in partnership with a local sister civic organization, The Woman’s City Club of Greater Cincinnati (WCC). Act One is a year-long leadership program for those 18-35 years old who want to gain experience in civic engagement. The program features mentoring, opportunities for civic engagement and tailored networking events. These members attend monthly meetings and are planning a Fall 2014 registration drive after learning about LWVUS community college voter registration outreach focus. With assistance from their mentors, these members are blending within LWV of the Cincinnati Area. The League anticipates that these new members will continue to contribute in meaningful ways to the League in the near future. With Act One, LWV of Cincinnati Area has gained 13 new members and 13 additional members are serving as mentors.
Strengthening Democracy: This category is to showcase the work of Leagues that activate their grassroots network to promote change around key issues such as clean air, climate change, protecting voting rights, and youth voting.
Winner: LWV of the Kalamazoo Area (MI): In September-October, 2012 the LWV of the Kalamazoo Area conducted a Young Adult Voter Education Project which targeted all students grades 11 and 12 at the two Kalamazoo Public High Schools, all students at Phoenix High School (alternative high school) and the Young Adult Program for special needs students through the Kalamazoo Regional Educational Service. The objective was to educate young people about the voting process including reasons to vote, how to register, how to become informed voters and how to cast a ballot. League members gave presentations to students about the voting process and information about voting resources, including the Voter Guide and how to use Vote411.org. Students who would be eighteen by Election Day completed voter registration forms to register and younger students completed facsimiles. Over 800 students were able to vote in a mock election. The clerk's office trained 50 interested students to be poll workers and they helped at the mock election and at polling places around the city on Election Day.
Finalist: Nassau County ILO (NY): From September, 2011 to March, 2103, The Nassau County ILO worked to assure transparency and citizen involvement in Nassau County’s redistricting process. Numerous organizations joined their efforts and all of their partners received mailings and email updates. Working together with Common Cause NY, Latino Justice, La Fuente, and the Long Island Civic Engagement Table, they sought to engage the diverse communities of Nassau County in the redistricting process and to protect the opportunity for minority communities to participate in the election process. League membership participation was very high; all five Leagues in the ILO had members involved, whether attending Legislature meetings or holding community forums throughout Nassau County.
Finalist: LWV of Kansas (KS): Registering first-time voters in Kansas requires proof of U.S. citizenship. Concerns about copying naturalization documents prompted Leagues to discontinue new citizen voter registration and thus avoid contributing to the growing numbers of names being placed on the incomplete list. LWV of Kansas talked with Election officials about ways to securely copy naturalization certificates. One official offered a government iPad to photograph naturalization certificates, and subsequently other election officials in counties that register new citizens agreed to provide either a government-issued optical scanner or digital camera. Since September 2013, new citizen registration by League has been restored, at no cost to anyone.
LWV of Arizona (AZ): Arizona his enacted some of the most restrictive proof of citizenship laws in the country. This has been a huge burden for some voters who don’t have easy access to documentary proof of their citizenship including married and divorced women with name changes and the elderly. Confusing restrictions have also made it difficult for League members to register eligible citizens to vote in Arizona. People often do not have the required documentation or are hesitant to share security-related information. In 2013, LWV of Arizona began grassroots efforts to oppose laws restricting voting including lobbying by League members at the AZ legislature, gathering signatures for a statewide referendum on these restrictive laws and LWVAZ joining a federal lawsuit Kobach v. EAC. To encourage voter registration in Arizona, LWVAZ and O’Connor House have joined forces to launch The Great Voter Challenge encouraging all eligible adults in Arizona to register, become informed on issues and vote in local, state and national elections. The goal is to improve the state’s voter statistics 10% by the November 4, 2014 election.
High Impact Visibility: Citizens are relying more and more on the Internet to give them up-to-date information about important issues. Awardees in this category effectively use a broad range of communications platforms (online and mainstream) to reach voters, potential members, media and the public on national and local issues.
Winner: LWV of New Jersey (NJ): "Storming for the Vote: Hurricane Sandy and the Election" was released October 2013, one year after Hurricane Sandy hit New Jersey. The film was screened statewide, with emphasis on viewings in especially hard hit areas of the state. The film features interviews with League members, election officials, and other voting rights advocates who came together to ensure that New Jersey voters could participate in a federal election amidst the destruction. In addition, the League also developed a community discussion guide which puts New Jersey's story in context with issues nationwide. The guide is designed to make youth more aware of the need to protect voting rights. By highlighting a moment when New Jersey residents almost lost access and celebrating how we pulled together to overcome, we ignite a passion to protect that fundamental right. The film was promoted in several ways. It is available online and has been shared socially and by the media. It has been viewed in 44 different countries. Local Leagues also show the film in their communities and have had success gaining new members as a result of these screenings.
Finalist: LWV of Greater Dayton Area (OH): 2013 was a big year for the Dayton League. They signed up to be part of the MLD program with a determination to grow their League and make a larger effort to communicate the inspiring history of the suffragists and the founding of the LWV. They improved their website, revised their LinkedIn Account, opened a Twitter Account and made sure their Facebook page gave a daily dose of history or an update on what the League was doing. They also surveyed their membership and pulled together a Public Relations TEAM who together promote the League, its programs and events. The Public Relations team has created a database of local newspapers, community calendars, radio and television stations to promote our work. They also tweet daily and post on Facebook. Additionally, they have been working with cable TV stations to provide programs i.e. The Correct Way to Vote Absentee.
Finalist: LWV of Washington (WA): Vote411 is giving the League great new visibility throughout Washington state! Washington began using Vote411 in 2012, covering races and ballot measures statewide for primary and general elections. they covered about 450 races with 900 candidates and received 40% responders. 36,674 people in 190 communities used the Vote411.org website! In 2013, they went on to cover 2676 races and 3708 candidates. Those races included everything from water & sewer, hospital, port, cemetery commissioners to school boards. Fewer than 800 of those races were contested but we got nearly 500 candidate responses, 32,241 users in 229 communities throughout the state. While the Vote411 committee was a state committee, LWV of Washington asked individual local Leagues throughout the state to take part by submitting questions for races in their areas. Thus they were able to tailor many candidate questions to issues of particular concern to local League and to the voters in those areas.
Finalist: LWV of Indiana (IN): In November 2012 LWV of Indiana started a two pronged "Get Out the Vote" highway billboard campaign. There we billboards on 2 interstates I-65 North (Chicago-Indianapolis). and I-69 North (Detroit-Indianapolis). These two billboards were viewed by 174,300 and 137,410 people respectively the week before the elections. Beyond that, the billboard on I-65 remained up until March (3,834,600 views) and I-69 was still being seem at end of April (3,847,480 views) LWV of Indiana also put up billboards on various other US & state highways. Since 96% of adults are exposed to outdoor media through local vehicle travel each week. This drastically increased their visibility. They also placed a banner ad in Indianapolis STAR which linked to the LWV of Indiana home page. In 2010 Indiana had 39.4% voter turnout, ranking 6% points lower than national average and ranking 48th among citizens age 18. Their banner read "48 isn't good enough."
Community Connection: This category aims to see how Leagues highlight issues that affect their local community and engage others (especially underrepresented communities including young people, low income Americans and new citizens) to become civically involved.
Winner: LWV of Collier County (FL): The “Know Your County Government Teen Citizenship Program” offers eleventh and twelfth grade high school students the opportunity to learn the history of the County, the purpose and functions of county government, how it operates and career opportunities that may exist. April 3 - 22, 2014 is the 34th year of this program. Attendees visit all major county government agencies and elected officials over four evenings and two days. Program is offered once a year to students who apply for the 35 openings. Students may come from County schools or home schooling. Their shared interactions provide an increased sense of community. The manual “Making Government Your Business” is updated annually, given to each participant and distributed on-line to libraries. Students are encouraged to share their experiences with family and friends. Evaluations reveal they gained interest in varied careers and registered to vote. They report some of the things they learned are the layout of the water treatment plant, which of the five commission districts they live in, what local taxes pay for, how traffic lights are controlled, what happens in emergency operations, and the security center for government buildings. They attend a court hearing and Board of County Commission meeting.
Finalist: LWV of the Spokane Area (WA): In the fall of 2013, three Spokane League members made presentations on voting rights history and voter registration in seven classes to 165 high school seniors in civics classes in two different schools. Students were divided into five different groups as identified by randomly distributed candy bars. Each group represented a different classification of eligible voters as the list expanded throughout US history. Five different votes were taken on a topic that the students had selected. The students in these classes became engaged in the history of voting rights. Each class selected a topic on which to vote. Five votes were taken, with groups of students feeling the exclusion from the voting process. Follow-up discussion identified and discussed the voting groups each candy bar represented, and how students felt when they were not eligible to vote or had to take a test. Ten new voters were registered – most of the eligible students.
Finalist: LWV of Alaska (AK): The Peratrovich Project is a project aimed at increasing civic engagement through creating a Viewer’s Guide for "Civil Rights for All: Ending Jim Crow in Alaska". The DVD features three decades of Alaska Native civil rights advocacy, with Elizabeth Peratrovich’s leadership, for ending racial discrimination. Communities served include 19 public libraries and 27 middle and high schools. These public libraries serve 70,000 Alaskan and schools serve 6300 students. Over 50% of the library and school populations are involved. The Viewer's Guide and the DVD were sent to libraries and schools in October 2013. Viewer's Guide preparation and strategies for outreach to mixed Native and Caucasian towns and villages was closely coordinated with Alaska Native leaders, local Legislative members, the Alaska Department of Education, and the Alaska Public Library system. Residual harm from centuries of Russian and United States domination persists in the underrepresented Alaska Native population. The Peratrovich Project is warmly received throughout the Alaska Native community and the Viewer's Guide will be placed on the statewide Education Department and Public Library Web Sites.
Finalist: LWV of New Hampshire (NH): As an outgrowth of the LWV of New Hampshire’s Incarcerated Women Study (see LWVUS Clearinghouse), the League now advocates for improvements in the treatment of women offenders, with a goal of reduced recidivism and improved futures for the women and society. They focus on the services or lack thereof for the women's prison inmates, the relationship between the county jails and courts and treatment programs, and reentry issues. Since 2012, over 15% of League members continue to be engaged in this work to help the 650 women incarcerated on a typical day in NH. League members set up speaking opportunities in various parts of the state, where League members reached people who had often never considered what impact incarceration has on women offenders and their families and the larger community. At those presentations they were sometimes told by attendees that they themselves were previous offenders, or that their daughters were incarcerated. The League also spoke with people in a position to donate generously to the education fund for the women's prison that the League has undertaken to provide intranet learning (in order to achieve educational parity with male offenders).