(Foreword by Ruth Kistler: The following article, by Betsy Pratt, Director and Voter Service Chair, League of Women Voters of Oregon [LWVOR], was supposed to be published in the Winter issue of the Voter, but was inadvertently omitted. In past years, as League of Womern Voters [LWV] Lincoln County’s Voter Service chair, I have received many comments from local residents disappointed by the poor coverage that the state Voters Guide and VOTE411 give to local races. With improved VOTE411 software, and with assistance from LWVOR we hope to be able to provide a more useful product for this year’s May Primary election. In early March, LWVOR will be asking local Leagues for assistance with local ballot measure reports and outreach to candidates. I hope we can form a committee within our local League to provide that assistance.)
As we told attendees at the October 19 Fall Workshop, we are starting to organize for next spring’s voter service activities. Peggy Bengry, as lead for VOTE411.org, has already been practicing with that tool, which was recently upgraded by the national LWV. As has been our pattern for the past couple of elections, VOTE411 will cover every race and every seat across the state. To make this work, Peggy’s current project is to develop a better mechanism for capturing boundary information for small, special-purpose districts, in collaboration with the Oregon Department of Revenue, Property Tax Division. In early March, once all the candidates have declared their intention to run, Peggy will send candidates email invitations to participate in VOTE411, along with the link used to provide responses. With help from Local Leagues to:
• Draft good candidate questions,
• Collect candidate information,
• Supply ballot measure reports,
• Contact candidates who don’t respond, and
• Send local election event information,
we can meet our goal to have complete information for all counties with local Leagues and more. The VOTE411 responses become the basis for both the on-line guide and the published Voters’ Guides.
Marianne Germond is in charge of producing the LWVOR printed guides, which will include the Standard Guide, the Large Print version of the Standard Guide, and the Easy Read version. We are also planning to publish a Spanish language version with Beatriz Robles Keiser of CROSSCULTURAL NOW. These LWVOR publications will cover only the statewide offices, which this year will include candidates for President, US Senate, US House of Representatives, Oregon Secretary of State, State Treasurer, State Attorney General, and State Supreme Court and Court of Appeals positions. Local Leagues are encouraged to produce guides covering any other candidates, using their VOTE411 responses.
We are planning to offer an Audio Voters’ Guide that will based on the Standard Guide. We will continue our Video Voters’ Guide series in partnership with several local Leagues. If you are interested in being in charge of either of these products, please let me know.
Finally, we have funds budgeted for outreach that will include Google searches, social media ads, and public service announcements. In early December I will develop a schedule for these activities and share it with the local League Voter Service leads. Our voter service program will be effective only to the extent that we can supply complete information in VOTE411. When a voter opens an LWVOR guide that has page after page of “Candidate did not respond in time,” or only a link to a ballot measure’s text, our usefulness and our credibility suffers. We will be asking local Leagues to help us with outreach to candidates and with ballot measure reports. Creating a ballot measure report or making a timely phone call might make a huge difference. Thank you and contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have questions or comments.