The League in action: election 2008 and beyond.

Author:Senecal, Jeanette
 
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The League of Women Voters has a long, successful history of voters' service activities, from purely educational activities to those focused on defending voting rights. The controversial results from Florida in the 2000 presidential election provided the catalyst for the push to reform the way elections are conducted in the United States.

The changes made in the ensuing eight years, albeit uneven and often underfunded, appear to have culminated in an improved, though still imperfect, election system. The League and its members have played no small part in this success.

Our hard work was noticed by the media, community and corporate leaders, and the public prior to and on November 4, 2008. This message, received at www.lwv.org, is heartwarming evidence that all League members and supporters deserve to pat themselves on the back for a job well done.

It occurs to me to say "Thank you!" for the work of the League of Women Voters. Through the years you in [the] LWV, through your collective and well-managed efforts, have enabled countless Americans to be informed about issues and candidates in communities throughout the country and to better participate in our democracy. You were there long before the electronic networking capabilities of this past decade, and you have adapted with the development of these capabilities to provide this invaluable service. Where do citizens turn for dependable information they can use to participate in their government? You provide so many resources. On this day after the election I'd like to say I appreciate the work you do to help create a more active and well-informed citizenry. [The] LWV is an indicator of what is going right in America. Thank you!--Kim

Unsolicited messages like the one above don't come easily, but the League's efforts to prepare the nation--the election systems and the voters--for election 2008 were unprecedented. The League's ambitious goal to increase electoral participation among historically marginalized populations guided much of the League's work. What were the "many resources" provided by the League and lauded in the message cited above?

VOTER OUTREACH AND EDUCATION IN ELECTION 2008

Voters' Guides

We can start with a resource that Leagues have been producing for decades--our Voters' Guides, containing valuable candidate and ballot issue information that help voters make informed decisions. In 2008, millions of League Voters' Guides were distributed as paper copies and downloaded from Web sites, including www.VOTE411.org--the League's one-stop-shop for election information. These guides (approximately 500 across the country) armed citizens with candidates' responses to a wide range of questions, focusing on the key issues in individual communities, as well as with nonpartisan information concerning the many complex ballot issues on which voters would be voting. For the first time in more than a decade, the LWVUS created a print version of our Presidential Voters' Guide for both the primary and general elections. The Leagues' Voters' Guides covered offices from the U.S. President, to judicial races, to state legislatures, all the way down to local offices like Soil Erosion Commissioner.

Other Publications for Voters

The League also reached hundreds of thousands of voters with other printed resources such as: Choosing the President, a comprehensive guide to the Presidential election; the VOTE brochure, a step-by-step guide to voting and Election Day especially designed to reach out to new and young voters; Electing the President, a 16-page education supplement that was created and distributed through a collaboration with the Newspaper in Education Institute; the League's popular 5 Things You Need to Know on Election Day cards, a easy reference guide to help voters prepare to vote and handle any problems they may face; and the 18-30 VIP--Voter Issues Paper, a booklet that outlines and encourages candidates and others to address the issues that young voters have said are most important to them.

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Many of these voter education and mobilization materials were available in English and Spanish languages and were distributed with the help of state and local Leagues across the country as well as the League's numerous partners.

Voter Education Outreach: E-Delivery

The League expanded on its already extensive voter education outreach with a first of its kind multi channel communications campaign using e-delivery systems such as Web sites, widgets, e-mails, social networking sites and YouTube, combined with traditional earned media coverage as well as through donated and paid advertising and public service announcements (see media coverage sidebar on p. 15).

The League's e-communications work included a variety of topics beyond VOTE411 and the information found there. It included the 2008 Voter Registration Challenge--a project designed to expand the number of registered voters through personal persuasion--and a series of e-mails regarding important dates and deadlines, other ways to engage in the elections around debates (including the League's popular Debate Hosting Party Kit) as well as get-out-the-vote messages.

A cornerstone of this campaign was the League's...

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