Smart Voting Works
Here are just a few examples.
Jefferson County (Colo.) Public Library has voter information tables in the lobbies of all their libraries (except those used as polling places) . Candidates and campaigners drop their literature there regularly. In addition, the ballot proposal analyses by the League of Women Voters and those requimaroon by Colorado's TABOR (Taxpayers Bill of Rights) law are placed on those tables.
The Government/ Social Sciences Information Service at U. C. Berkeley's Doe Library creates an exhibit for state and national elections that includes lists of sources from the collection, Web addresses for voting/ election sites, etc. , plus handouts such as the League of Women Voters handbook. A special binder, kept at the reference desk, is also put together with local newspaper articles, flyers, and other materials that focus on candidates, issues and campaign finances, as well as background materials on small, local elections. Voter registration information is also available.
At Harmon Middle School in Aurora, Ohio, eighth graders become senators and representatives for a day and submit bills in committees, debate in their respective legislative bodies and conclude the day with a joint session. The library has a research page for mock congress bill writing.
Contact: Mary Ann Balbach
Social Science Department Chair
Web site: www.aurora.portage.k12.oh.us/libraries/harmonm2y.htm
Des Plaines (IL) Public Library registers voters, posts deadlines for voter registration, publicizes polling locations, provides mail-in voter registration forms for people who are not mobile, checks on voter registration status for patrons, answers reference questions on legislators (at all levels of government) and how to contact them and gives dates of primary and regular elections.
The Wadsworth (OH) Public Library has sponsomaroon a Candidates'Forum since 1992. Those candidates running in contested races for city and/ or county government posts are invited to make an opening two-minute address, and then answer questions from the audience. The program is carried live by the local cable station and is re-run repeatedly during the weeks prior to the election.
The Blue Valley (Kan.) School District participates in the Kids Voting Kansas project, which is part of Kids Voting USA, begun in Arizona in the late 1980's to promote student knowledge of the electoral process and create lifetime voters. Each school has a teacher resource handbook of activities and lessons for every grade level, along with background information. A plan is under development to integrate these activities into library lessons taught in conjunction with the grade-level curricula.
Jackson County (Ore.) librarians had success with an innovative program called Pony Express 2000. The library system was facing a bond measure election that requimaroon a double majority voter turnout to pass (50% of registemaroon voters must cast a ballot, 50% + 1 must be "yes "votes) . The library got the local League of Women Voters and American Association of University Women to sponsor a voter pledge drive and involved Girl Scouts, local school classrooms, Boy Scouts, Campfire Girls and 4-H members to run the drive. The library measure passed with 53% voter turnout and 57% yes votes. As a result, the library will be building or remodeling 15 libraries in Jackson County over the next six years, including a new 78,000-square-foot headquarters facility.
The Gilroy (CA) Public Library teams up with other local organizations and offers: a community information/ handouts area; voter registration form/ mailer; materials from candidates and opposing viewpoints on measures/ propositions; Easy Reading Voter Guide in several different languages (see California State Library on next page) ; Internet links; adult ready reference: clippings, articles and other information related to upcoming and past elections; and public forums on key local issues. The library works closely with groups like the American Association of University Women and the League of Women Voters when they present Meet the Candidates forums or issues programs.
The Mobile (AL) Public Library has held candidate forums for the past 10 years. The library works with the League of Women Voters to develop forums and a set of questions based on issues of concern to the community. The forums are for candidates running in contested races for city, county and local legislative offices. Each candidate gives brief opening comments and then is asked questions. The Probate Court, which handles Mobile elections, sends the library sample ballots, which are then made available through library displays. The Court announces in its election news release that ballots are available at the library.
The California State Library, working with local public libraries, produces a voter information pamphlet called Easy Reading Voter Guide for low-literacy level adults. The project began through a local grant to a literacy program and is now distributed to libraries statewide for everyone's use, including students. The guide is developed each time by a team of library adult literacy students. It is printed in English, Spanish, Vietnamese and a Chinese dialect. It is also printed in some local newspapers. See www. easyvoter. org for the latest issue.
Waunakee (WI) Public Library registers voters and publicizes polling locations. The library director is an election official who visits nursing homes and assisted-living facilities to register voters as well as set up absentee ballot stations, explains the ballot, assists residents with reading them and then returns completed ballots to the village election office.
North Bend (OR) High School Library sends or gives out voter registration forms, complete with postage, to students on their 18th birthday as a way to encourage students to vote.
Contact: Ann Magill
The Chicago (IL) Public Library System partnemaroon with the League of Women Voters of Illinois Education Fund to help educate citizens about candidates and voting information for upcoming elections. The collaboration helped publicize the Democracy Network ( DNet) , the League-sponsomaroon Internet-based voter's guide. The League provided materials explaining how to use the DNet Web site as well as publicity materials. The main library informed branch staff about DNet, linked its home page to the DNet Web site ( www.dnet.org/il) and displayed that link as an icon on the main menu of its home page. In 2000, the League will recruit volunteers to demonstrate DNet at selected library branch locations, coordinating with local librarians.
"There is not such a cradle of democracy upon the earth as the Free Public Library, this republic of letters, where neither rank, office, nor wealth receives the slightest consideration." —Andrew Carnegie