Smart Voting: Great Ideas

Always check local campaign rules before deciding on any plan of action. Every state operates under different election laws.

  • Create a voter information area in your public, school or college/ university library and publicize its availability to the community. Your display might include books, videos, CD-ROMs, flyers, issue guides and resource lists, citizen-group literature, voter registration deadlines and nonpartisan information on candidates. If your library 's policy permits, provide candidate statements and arguments on ballots. Provide ballots and voter guides, partnering with organizations such as the League of Women Voters.
  • Create a voter information area on your library 's Web site. Include links to useful election-related Web sites and publish a user guide pointing out resources relevant to local electoral issues. Be sure to include links for students. Bookmark Web sites of candidates important to your community and publish a list of these sites.
  • Send out a press release about all the useful election information available at your library. Sponsor a debate or forum between a community group leader working on an issue relevant to local or national elections and a leader supporting opposing policies (e.g., a healthcare reform advocate and an insurance company spokesperson). Publicize the event through newsletters, campus newspapers, flyers, local media and your library's Web site.
  • Host a candidates' debate on key library issues at an upcoming library-related conference or other public meeting.Invite a teacher, professor or other authority to give a talk about voting, the election process or other related issues. Follow with a question-and-answer session.
  • Host an event for your community to watch a campaign debate on TV and follow with a discussion of the issues addressed.
  • Highlight materials that describe the duties of elected officials, the wording of ballot measures and contact information for candidates and ballot-issue committees.
  • Host an event for your community to watch a campaign debate on TV and follow with a discussion of the issues addressed.
  • Highlight materials that describe the duties of elected officials, the wording of ballot measures and contact information for candidates and ballot-issue committees.
  • Maintain a community bulletin board on your computer system where people can discuss issues. Make sure there is an actual bulletin board that points people to the computer page.
  • Write a letter to the editor or opinion column for your campus, community or school newspaper about how important libraries are to a functioning democracy. Emphasize that libraries provide a forum for the public to exercise its right to know.
  • Offer interviews to community or campus radio and TV stations about the importance of having access to government and other information about social and political issues and the library 's role in making and keeping this information accessible.
  • Sponsor forums on local and national issues with local leaders of community organizations.
  • Contact publishers to get authors of books on the 2000 election to speak at your library. Invite a candidate or community group leader opposed to the book 's arguments to debate the author.
  • Host a movie night in your college or university library, showing a film about American politics, followed by a discussion. Invite a professor to moderate the discussion.
  • Build partnerships with organizations promoting voter education such as the League of Women Voters or Project Vote Smart. (See Selected resources.)
  • Sponsor debates of local candidates on local issues, followed by a question-and-answer session. If in a college or academic setting, work with your campus newspaper or the Political Science department to cosponsor a debate geared toward college students. Hold the debate in the college library, in the student union or in a class during its scheduled meeting time.
  • Ask local businesses, YMCA's, schools, museums and other community organizations to help you publicize the library as a site for voter information.
  • Invite college students to help with projects that educate voters.
  • Work with teachers to integrate lessons about voting and elections into the curriculum. Provide information and research about voting, women 's suffrage, the election process or other issues in which students might be interested.
  • Work with teachers to host a mock debate with two students representing two candidates' views. Follow with a mock election.
  • Make your school library a one-stop shop for information about local elections and candidates for teachers and other school professionals. Be sure to highlight issues and positions impacting school libraries. Bookmark related Web sites on the school library 's computers.
  • Make voting and election information available in the school library during Back-to-School nights.
  • Check with your local PTA group to see if you can distribute election information to parents. You may be able to send home flyers with school children or provide literature at PTA meetings.
  • Work with volunteer groups on campus to send email, distribute flyers or stuff student mailboxes with voter registration deadlines and absentee ballot information. Remind students that they can pick up more information at the campus library.

"The library is central to our free society. It is a critical element in the free exchange of information at the heart of our democracy." —Vartan Gregorian