As Voter Service Chair, I have the wonderful opportunity to report on our local League’s voter service efforts during the run-up to the 2018 election. In the first part of a series on the LWV-NCF’s 2018 Voter Services, I will report on our recent local voter registration and education efforts. The second part of the report will present an in-depth analysis of Northfield’s voter turnout data to help us better understand and improve local electoral participation.
Encouraging informed and active participation in government is a central goal of the League of Women Voters (see our mission statement). While the benefits of participating in our democracy are immense, these benefits are sometimes difficult to see at the individual-level. Deciding to vote or learn about the issues and candidates is not a cost-less choice. Competing time demands may feel insurmountable for some potential voters. Furthermore, the frequency and quantity of elections in the U.S. require voters to spend even more time outside of the polls, figuring out how to register to vote and then learning and researching the various candidates and issues. Voting is not for the faint of heart.
Luckily, through voter registration and education, the League excels at helping people reduce the costs of political participation. In 2018, many local League members contributed hundreds of hours to register and educate our community members.
2018 Voter Registration Efforts
Before people can vote, they first must be registered. Fortunately, the voter registration process is relatively easy in Minnesota, but helping people register to vote before the election increases the chance they will head to the polls on election day and also improves their Election Day voting experience. We estimate that our League helped over 300 people to register to vote through our eleven voter registration events! Our members helped register voters at the Rice County Fair, Defeat of Jesse James Day, the Northfield Library’s Hispanic Celebration, Carleton College, Greenvale Community Center, Faribault International Festival, St. Olaf, Northfield Riverwalk Market, Northfield High School, and other community events. Thank you to all who helped with these events!
In addition to our specific voter registration events, we also worked to reach the broader community. To do this, we created, publicized, and shared via social media the following informative flyer/poster designed to provide key information needed to navigate the registration process in Minnesota. The poster was especially helpful for individuals who wanted more information, but did not have time to register at our various events. People could easily take a quick digital picture of the information and then register later on their own time. A big thanks to our member, Amy Smith, for the beautiful poster design.
2018 Voter Education Efforts
In addition to increasing the likelihood people will participate in elections, our League voter education efforts seek to improve the quality of democratic participation. The leaders we elect make decisions that affect our daily lives. When we are able to make informed decisions in elections, we are better able to stand up for what matters most to us and have a clear influence on the issues that affect us and our communities. In 2018, our League hosted two referendum informational sessions, three local candidate forums, and two candidate Meet and Greet events that local League members conducted in Northfield, Cannon Falls, and Randolph. These events could not have happened without the incredible efforts of League members, Allene Moesler and Jane McWilliams. Over 350 local voters were educated through these valuable voter education events.
Continuing Voter Service Efforts
Most of the issues that affect our daily lives are decided at the local level. The LWV-NCF along with other community members understand the importance of citizen education and involvement in our local governments. As chair of Voter Services, I was privileged to witness the tireless efforts of people committed to strengthening our democracy through voter service. Our efforts inspired and empowered hundreds of people to to register and vote. While the 2018 general elections have come and gone, our voter service efforts continue. If you are interested in learning more about how to get involved in the League’s ongoing voter service efforts or if you have ideas on specific ways we might better serve voters in our community, reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.