Ideas for reviving a dormant civic group (LWV), please?
February 1, 2017 7:40 AM   Subscribe

My local League of Women Voters disbanded several years ago. A new group has committed to reviving it. Can you suggest specific ideas for events to promote community involvement?

Think manageable one-offs, like having a booth at the town parade, or co-sponsoring a candidate appearance. The new group is both small and busy, so while ambitious happenings are the eventual goal, I'm more interested in baby steps.

Where have you seen the League in your community, and what kind of interesting public displays/events have you seen them hold?

Subquestion: Any amazing online tools that the new group should use for itself, or be promoting to citizens?
posted by MonkeyToes to Grab Bag (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
The local one here held voter registration drives within my university building. I appreciated that!
posted by ocherdraco at 7:52 AM on February 1, 2017 [2 favorites]

My favorite people at the local satellite Women's March were the LWV people with bright vests and clipboards, registering people to vote. It was such an obvious thing, but one that I wouldn't have thought of.
posted by Etrigan at 8:18 AM on February 1, 2017 [3 favorites]

How about putting together a handbook for your area?

-- Information about how to register as a voter
-- A list of all elections in the next four years (make sure to include all local races)
-- Links to information about how to become a candidate
-- Deadlines for declaring as a candidate for each election
-- Links to orgs that run workshops for candidates
-- Links to local anti-gerrymandering organizations
-- A page listing the names and contact information of your elected officials
-- A primer on protesting, including the ACLU's information on the rights of protesters
posted by mcduff at 8:34 AM on February 1, 2017 [3 favorites]

If you've got local elections coming up, hosting a candidates forum is a great way to get people involved (and ideally, you end up getting help from the candidates themselves in actually attracting people to the event).
posted by firechicago at 8:41 AM on February 1, 2017 [2 favorites]

Do you have a social media presence? You can use that to promote candidate/issue forums or other events.
posted by bunderful at 8:51 AM on February 1, 2017

I remember the LWV in my area published a pullout voter's guide in the local newspaper before elections, summarizing each candidate's background and positions. I always found that helpful.
posted by kevinbelt at 9:32 AM on February 1, 2017 [1 favorite]

My local league is very active. In off election years I see them host regular 'legislative coffees' at the public library where local politicians are invited and monthly meetings with speakers on a host of timely issues. They publish a monthly newsletter and weekly legislative reports when it's in session. They also run workshops for prospective candidates and co-sponsor a lot of local events. During election years they have lots of voter registration drives (the biggest crowd was at the state fair), candidate forums, and they publish a voter's guide.
posted by galvanized unicorn at 9:42 AM on February 1, 2017 [1 favorite]

I agree with registering people to vote! The other thing I really appreciate the LWV for is the local elections guide -- while it's easy to find info on state and national races, I sometimes really struggle with where to go for information on local candidates and other ballot things that only apply to our city/county (like a bond issue). The LWV always comes through for me!
posted by rainbowbrite at 11:39 AM on February 1, 2017 [4 favorites]

What is your group's goal or goals? Information distribution, voter registration, fostering community connections to political officials? You could agree on that first before pursuing one of these actions. Or if they all sound good, prioritize efforts, or delegate leadership for each, so everything can be done well.

I got used to LWV providing outstanding local election information on their website in California, so when I left the state, I was sad to find that was not a national standard for all local and state branches of LWV. (On current review, they've improved their website.)

But that's an administrative-level effort, so going out to rallies and signing people up to vote, telling them what they need to have to vote, when the upcoming local elections will be (in a pocket calendar, perhaps? 8.5" x 11" page folded nicely, available online as a PDF to print yourself?) sound like great outreach and public support efforts.

Good luck!
posted by filthy light thief at 12:22 PM on February 1, 2017 [1 favorite]

Candidate forums are very popular and easy to host at local libraries, senior centers, etc., at low cost or no cost. Our LWV also provides impartial moderators to other candidate forums in the area, like hosted by the newspaper or whatever.

One thing some LWVs do that I really like is attend high schools' "senior breakfasts" or whatever in the spring and register high school seniors to vote. They're mostly 18 by graduation, and you have material for the rest so they can register when they turn 18. (If in your state kids can vote in the primaries if they're 17, maybe something just before the primary registration deadline.) Most schools have a senior breakfast or a spring festival or a senior concert or something like that where they'll let you set up a table at the back and register the kids as they come and go. You can hit ten high schools in two weeks with just a handful of volunteers. You can also target high schools in your area that serve low-income or high-immigrant populations, who are less likely to seek out voter registration on their own, if you're just starting out and can't blanket the whole county's worth of high schools.

(Wow, now that I think back I'm pretty sure it was the LWV at MY senior luncheon who registered ME to vote for the first time lo these many years ago! Which just goes to show it's been a program showing strong voter returns for many years now. :) )
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:00 PM on February 1, 2017 [2 favorites]

Similarly, schools in your area may be willing to partner with you to provide voter registration information to all graduating seniors, if you don't have the womanpower to man a booth but you do have the money to print up registration info for all seniors. You may be able to have a pamphlet stuffed in every yearbook, for example, or information on voter registration provided with graduation packets. (Depends on the school whether they'll be open to this.)

Most schools will let you attend college fairs, although you'd be more passing out information to younger students than registering 18-year-olds. Really spring graduation-related events for seniors are where the new-voter jackpot is! (Also because they're about to graduate, they're feeling grown-up, they're reading to do novel grown-up things like register to vote, AND you can give them a sticker and their friends get jealous of their sticker and come register too.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:04 PM on February 1, 2017 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: AND you can give them a sticker and their friends get jealous of their sticker and come register too.

I remember a number of comments here about receiving/not receiving a sticker, and something about the legality of giving things away at the polls. Is there any prohibition against giving away stickers for registering to vote?
posted by MonkeyToes at 5:10 AM on February 2, 2017

It's illegal to offer free stuff or discounts to people who have an "I Voted!" sticker, because it can be an extremely backdoor, roundabout way to buy votes, but in theory could work. So like Starbucks can't knock a nickle off your coffee. And some cities have stopped handing them out because polling places got upset how many people were sticking them to walls and adding big clean-up headaches and refused to keep serving as polling places. You're also not allowed to only offer them to some voters and not all voters. But they're perfectly legal!

And I can't see a problem with stickers for registering to vote (they're pretty common around here at, like, art fairs or farmers markets or food festivals where the voter registration people will have a booth ... Lets other attendees know they're there in case they want to seek them out) but that's totally a question for your state voter registration people, who will have clear guidance on it.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:12 AM on February 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

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