By Christina Chan-Park
When the founders of the United States established the decennial census in Article 1 Section 2 of the Constitution, they wanted to use the “enumeration” to give the people rights and privileges. Historically, censuses were used for conscription or taxation purposes (remember the bible story of Mary and Joseph travelling to Bethlehem for the census?); it was a way for those in power to wield control. But the US census is used to give power to the people. Getting an accurate census count ensures shared governance.
Most people are aware that the census determines how many congresspersons each state gets in the House of Representatives, but they might be less aware that it is also used to distribute $675 billion per year in federal funds spent on schools, hospitals, roads, public works and other vital programs. Getting an accurate census count means that your community gets its fair share of resources from the taxes you have paid.
The data collected in the census is not locked up in a vault somewhere but is available to the public for free. These data are accessible to companies, developers, local governments, and even individuals. They can inform decisions on where to establish new businesses or how to revitalize old neighborhoods. They can be used to prepare plans for public safety and emergencies. Getting an accurate census account provides tools and information for local community development.
The census bureau collects more information that just how many people there are and where they live. On the census they also ask about the sex, age and race of each person. For months before the April 1 census date, the census bureau and local communities work on educating the public about why they needed to be counted and ensuring them that there are only positive and no negative consequences to being counted. Getting an accurate census count ensures everyone is counted once and only once.
Go explore census.gov (where I cribbed a lot of my information). There you can find more on how census data are gathered and used; what data is gathered in between the decennial censuses; and even download data and learn about your community. Just remember: getting an accurate census count is important.
Christina Chan-Park serves as the President of the League of Women Voters Waco. To join or learn more about LWV Waco, follow us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/LWVWaco/ or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Dr. Lucia Harcum
May 4th is an election day in Mclennan County. It is easy to believe your vote does not matter or will not count. This is incorrect. In May’s 2017 election, less than 4% of registered voters cast a vote and only 1 out of 80 McLennan county residents voted. These statistics make it easy to see that with only a very little effort, the McLennan county voters can be statistically significant in election results.
This is not an election for president, your senator, congressperson, mayor or even dog catcher. So some may be tempted to feel this is a “who cares” election. Even voters that know all about national politics have a challenging time connecting any of them to our daily lives. The fact is that everyone you know NEEDS to vote in May. This action ensures that in the future your votes are sought after, you and your family concerns are addressed, and that these issues must be considered and addressed by your elected officials wishing to remain in office and those seeking offices.
Too often entire neighborhoods do not vote because it appears to them that those running do not seem to care about what is important to their family. Yet this is a two-way street. How can an elected official seeking your vote know your wishes if they do not even know if you will vote? Why would they care about what is important to you if you have not shown them that they can count on your vote and you will vote, even in a low-controversy election? Use this upcoming election as a megaphone for the vote. The vote this election is expected to be so low that even small groups of neighborhoods that show up in mass could significantly sway all elections by an easy margin. Make your vote count; said here, is why.
Traditionally this phase in the voting cycle has an expected low voter turnout because the issues are not extremely politically charged with emotion. If you vote, all the Parties are watching and will glean as much information as possible about the voting population demographics. That information will then be used sway your future vote. Frankly this has always happened in the past. The difference today is that information is dissected via the internet and social media. It may be difficult to know or confirm the true facts. Research the information. Make an informed decision. Vote intelligently with a focus toward your desired outcome in world-wide interests, nation-wide, state, county and local government concerns or interests in the future.
This upcoming voter turnout will serve as a gauge for voter interest by the political cogs. It will notify the parties, all of them (Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, and Green), about the apathy and/or passion of all districts. It will be the base for candidate platforms and with these demographics they will statistically calculate the precinct’s potential and future viability of candidates and proposal successes.
Good news for voting. The lines will be short, and parking will be available. Voting in this election shows our elected officials (and their political planners) you’re your vote has real value. Your voice through your vote needs to be sought out, heard, and addressed by the political planners. This includes concerns about you, your family, your community, and your country in all aspects: healthcare, education, economy, jobs, etc. Also, and this is very important, the people that get out and vote will be a factor of the future election campaign because you will vote again in the future.
Your vote can easily have a significant impact on the opinion of potential new or incumbent officials and changes in laws. If you do not vote, it is assumed that you will remain one of the voiceless who simply (but stupidly) gave their voice to someone else. The projected turnout for November’s election amplifies your voice today and in the future. Use your vote as a megaphone to represent your family, your neighborhood, and McLennan County. If you are registered, vote by May 4. If you are not registered, do so NOW and your vote WILL count in the future!
Before you vote, check out the non-partisan voter guides for the elections to the Bellmead City Council and the Hewitt City Council at www.vote411.org.
Dr. Lucia Harcum is a free-lance research writer and active member of the League of Women Voters of Waco, Junior League of Waco, Central Texas Coalition for Literacy, Central Texas Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and is Treasurer of a local nonprofit. This article originally appeared in her weekly column, Para La Familia, published by TIEMPO, a Central Texas Spanish/English Newspaper. It has been adapted for the May 2019 publication in the Act Locally Waco blog.
The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email email@example.com for more information.
By Meg Wallace
The League of Women Voters of Texas (LWVTX) is spreading the word that naturalized citizens who properly registered to vote are indeed eligible to vote, in spite of what they may have heard in the news or received in their mailbox.
If you are a naturalized citizen who is registered to vote in Texas, you may have received a letter indicating that you must prove your citizenship in order to vote. Please do not let this letter discourage you from voting.
How did the letter come about?
In late January, Texas Secretary of State David Whitley created a list of names of people on the Texas voting rolls who may be noncitizens. Across the state, 95,000 people were on Whitley’s list. Of those, about 58,000 where shown to have voted at some point during the past 22 years.
Whitley sent this list to county elections officials and indicated they should send these registrants a “Proof of Citizenship” letter. The letter instructed the registrants that they have 30 days to prove their eligibility to vote, and that if they don’t prove their eligibility the county registrar will cancel their voter registration. Whitley circulated a media release about his actions late on a Friday afternoon.
This list received quite a bit of attention on social media and mainstream media. On the same Friday afternoon Secretary of State Whitley circulated his media release, Governor Greg Abbott and Lt. Governor Dan Patrick tweeted about “illegal voter registration,” and Attorney General Ken Paxton tweeted a warning of “VOTER FRAUD” in all caps. Soon after, President Donald Trump also tweeted about the assumed fraud.
Problems with the list
As it turns out, however, there are serious problems with the list. First of all, according to Cinde Weatherby, LWVTX Voting Rights/Election Law Issue Chair, “Many of the names represent noncitizens who applied for a driver license or State ID at the Texas Department of Public Safety during the past 22 years.” In the meantime, many of those individuals have become citizens. Each year from 52,000 to 63,000 Texans are naturalized in Texas. There are no requirements for them to notify the Department of Public Safety of that action.
“Proof of Citizenship” letters known to discourage voting
Challenge letters like the “Proof of Citizenship” letter described here have been shown to suppress voter participation. If someone is sent a letter and does not respond as instructed within the 30-day period provided, their registration can be canceled. This produces an additional burden on the voting rights of a specific group of registered voters: recently naturalized citizens. As a federal judge wroteregarding a similar recent attempted voter purge in Florida, “A state cannot properly impose burdensome demands in a discriminatory manner.” Furthermore, the text of the Proof of Citizenship letter suggested by the Texas Secretary of State does not indicate how registrants should supply their proof of citizenship to elections officials. This creates confusion, making it difficult for registrants who receive the letter to comply.
Upon hearing of the Secretary of State Whitley’s actions, Julieta Garibay, co-founder of United We Dream, contacted her county’s voter registrar office and received confirmation that she was on Whitley’s list. Originally from Mexico, Garibay moved to Austin in the 1990s and received a green card as a domestic violence survivor. She became a citizen in 2018 and voted for the first time in November. In her testimony at Whitley’s confirmation hearing before the Texas Senate Nominations Committee this month, she said, “As a Latina, as a woman, as a proud immigrant with an accent, I know my right, duty, and responsibility as a U.S. citizen, and I do not take it lightly. Winning my right to vote was not a victory just for me or my family. Rather, it was a victory for my community… I will not let these bullies intimidate me or prevent me from voting.”
How does this affect us in Waco?
Kathy Van Wolfe, McLennan County Elections Administrator, reports that her office did not send any Proof of Citizenship letters in response to Whitley’s instructions. Soon after she received the list, the Secretary of State’s office contacted her office to confirm all 388 people on the list sent to her had already been confirmed as citizens. At least five counties are known to have sent the letters. It is possible McLennan County voters may have family and friends who received them.
What should people do if they receive the letter?
LWVTX advises naturalized citizens who may receive the letter to “contact your county voter registrar to find out how to provide a copy of your naturalization certificate or U.S. Passport.” County voter registrar contact information is available on the LWVTX website’s naturalized citizen page.
“The League congratulates naturalized citizens participating as voters,” says LWVTX President Grace Chimene. “Every naturalized citizen, you have a right to vote and participate fully in our democracy.”
For more information about The League of Women Voters in Waco, please visit the Facebook page: League of Women Voters of Waco.
Meg Wallace is the organizer of the Amberley Collaborative a new nonprofit that is increasing the caring capacity of Waco and McLennan County by strengthening residents’ natural support systems.
The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
By Rebecca McCumbers Flavin
Early voting is underway! In this blog post, we provide important information to help you make your plan to vote.
1. Plan when to vote:
Early Voting begins Monday, October 22 and continues daily through Friday, November 2. Polls are open:
- Monday, October 22 through Friday, October 26, 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM
- Saturday, October 27, 7:00 AM-7:00 PM
- Sunday, October 28, 1:00 PM-6:00 PM
- Monday, October 29 through Friday, November 2, 7:00 AM-7:00 PM
That means you can vote anytime beginning October 22nd until Election Day EXCEPT for November 3, 4, and 5. If you miss early voting, then plan to cast your ballot on Election Day, Tuesday, November 6; polls are open from 7:00 AM to 7:00 PM.
If you received a ballot by mail, those should be returned by 7:00 PM on Tuesday, November 6.
2. Plan where to vote:
McLennan County has vote centers, and you may vote at ANY center, not just the one closest to your house.
During early voting, you have 5 vote centers to choose from:
- McLennan County Elections Administration Office
214 North 4th Street, Suite 300, Waco, 76701
- Robinson Community Center
106 W. Lyndale, Robinson, 76706
- Waco Multi-Purpose Community Center
1020 Elm Street, Waco 76704
- First Assembly of God Church
6701 Bosque Blvd., Waco, 76710
- Hewitt Public Safety Facility
100 Patriot Court, Hewitt, 76643
On Election Day, there are even more vote centers to choose from.
Choose a place and time that is convenient for your daily commute. Keep in mind that lines are often shorter during Early Voting.
If you need a ride to the polls, Waco Transit is offering free rides on Election Day. Simply present your voter registration card, or an “I Voted” sticker to the driver to obtain free passage. In addition, Uber and Lyft are offering free or reduced-price fares, depending upon where you live.
3. Plan what you need to bring to the polls and what you should leave behind.
Plan to have the proper ID. Texas law requires that voters present a photo ID at the polls. There are seven forms of photo ID accepted at Texas polling places:
- Texas Driver’s License issued by the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS)
- Texas Election Identification Certificate (issued by DPS)
- Texas Personal identification card (issued by DPS)
- Texas Handgun License (issued by DPS)
- U.S. military ID card that includes your photograph
- U.S. citizenship certificate that includes your photograph
- U.S. passport book or card
These IDs will be accepted if they expired less than four years ago, with the exception of citizenship certificate, which must be up to date. If you do not have one of the required photo IDs, you may present an alternate form of supporting identification. You will also be asked to complete “Reasonable Impediment Declaration” to accompany this alternate form of ID, as described here.
Things to leave behind.
Texas law prohibits the use of electronic devices within 100 feet of a voting station. You may not bring electronic devices into the polling places, nor may you take photographs inside the polling places. If you use the Vote 411 voting guide, plan to bring a paper copy with you; you will not be able to use your phone to access the guide. If you take a selfie, make sure you are more than 100 feet beyond the polling place.
You are not permitted to bring or wear campaign material into a polling place. Leave hats, buttons, t-shirts, etc. supporting candidates in your car.
4. Get informed about the races and candidates on your ballot.
VOTE411 is a non-partisan online voters’ guide provided by the League of Women Voters Education Fund. Just plug in your address at Vote411.org, and you will receive personalized election information, including a list of races and candidates and races on your ballot. Vote411 has a great feature where you can compare candidates’ positions side-by-side. You can print out your ballot with candidate choices and bring it with you to the polls.
Once you have made your plan to be a Waco, TX voter, share your plan friends and family members to help them make their plan to vote, too!
Rebecca McCumbers Flavin serves as Co-Communicator for LWV-Waco, leading the taskforce that focuses on voter registration and get out the vote activities. Dr. Flavin is also a Senior Lecturer in Political Science at Baylor University. The League of Women Voters (LWV) is a non-partisan organization that for nearly 100 years has advocated protecting the right to vote and encouraging the exercise of that vote. The Waco chapter was reformed in 2017 as a League-at-Large under LWV-Texas.
In the past year LWV-Waco has hosted several events, including a voter candidate forum for the March 2018 Primary and the November General elections, voter registration drives, a movie night, and an educational walk co-hosted by Waco Walks. To join or learn more about LWV, follow us on Facebook by searching for League of Women Voters of Waco, or contact the local chapter at email@example.com.
by Rebecca McCumbers Flavin
Election Day is right around the corner, and the League of Women Voters of Waco wants you (YES, YOU!) to be a Waco, Texas voter! In this blog post, we provide a step-by-step guide with something for everyone – from first time voters to those who have never missed an election.
You are not registered to vote in McLennan County, Texas
Good news – there is still time! The deadline to register or update your registration before the 2018 General Election is Tuesday, October 9. You are eligible to register if you are a U.S. citizen who will turn 18 years old by election day. You may submit your registration as early as two months before your 18th birthday. If you are a college student, you may register to vote at either your school address or your home address. LWV-Texas has a great website with step-by-step instructions to help students register to vote. If you are a convicted felon, you may register to vote once you have completed your punishment phase, which includes any court-ordered period of incarceration, parole, supervision, or probation, as explained on the Texas Secretary of State’s website.
There are several ways you can register:
- Fill out the registration online, print it, and mail it in: While Texas does not have online voter registration, you can use this online tool to fill out an application on your computer. Simply print, sign, and stamp your application and mail it to: Elections Administrator, Kathy E. Van Wolfe, P.O. Box 2450, Waco, TX 76703-2450. If you do not live in McLennan County, you will find a list of all Texas county voter registration officials’ mailing addresses at this link.
- Obtain a hard copy registration application: Voter registration applications are available at the McLennan County Elections Office, located at 214 N 4th Street, Suite 300, Waco, TX, 76701. Applications are also available at libraries, government offices, and high schools.
- Get a voter registration application mailed to you: You can request a postage-paid voter application form using this link.
For all of these options, make sure your application is postmarked by Tuesday, October 9 so that you are registered in time for the General Election on November 6th. Once you have submitted your registration, you are one step closer to being a Waco, Texas voter! See #3 below to make your plan to vote.
You are registered to vote in McLennan County but have not voted in a while, you are not sure if you are registered, or you recently moved and are not sure if your address is up-to-date
The first step is to check your voter registration to make sure it is up-to-date with your current address. You will be asked to enter your date of birth along with either your Voter ID number or your Texas Driver’s License number. Alternately, you can enter your name, county, date of birth, and ZIP Code. If you are not registered or need to update your registration, see #1 above. If you are registered, see #3 below to make your plan to vote.
You are registered to vote in McLennan County
It is never too early to make your plan to vote! Do the voter “two-step,” and make your plan for the General Election.
Step 1 – Plan when and where to vote:
We recommend that you make an appointment with yourself to vote.
Plan when: Early voting begins Monday, October 22nd and continues daily through Friday, November 2, 2018. Election Day is Tuesday November 6. That means you can vote anytime beginning October 22nd until Election Day EXCEPT for November 3, 4, and 5. On the McLennan County Elections website you will find the schedule of times when the polls are open each day during early voting. On Election Day all polling places are open from 7:00 AM to 7:00 PM.
Plan where: On the McLennan County Elections website you will find a list of early voting locations, if you plan to vote October 22 – November 2. There is a longer list of polling places for Election Day. In McLennan County you may vote at ANY of the designated voting centers. Check out the lists, and choose a site that is convenient for your daily commute to work, school, or running errands.
Plan to have the proper ID: Texas law requires that you present a photo ID at the polls. You will find the list of acceptable photo IDs here. If you do not have one of the required photo IDs, you may present an alternate form of supporting identification. You will also be asked to complete “Reasonable Impediment Declaration,” as described here.
Ballot by mail:
Determine if you are eligible: If you are 65 and over, are disabled, are going to be out of the county, or are in jail, you may apply for a ballot by mail.
Apply: For voters 65 and over and disabled voters, if you already submitted an annual application for a ballot by mail, you do not need to reapply. Your ballot will be mailed to you after September 4. For those who are not 65 and over or disabled, you will need to submit your application by Friday, October 26. Note that is the deadline your application must be received, not the deadline it should be post marked. We recommend mailing your application at least one week in advance to be safe.
Submit your ballot: Ballots should be submitted by 7:00 PM on Tuesday, November 6. See step 2 below as you complete your ballot.
Step 2 – Learn about the candidates:
Visit VOTE411, an online voters’ guide provided by the League of Women Voters Education Fund. At VOTE411 you can see races on your ballot and compare candidates’ positions side-by-side; candidate information for the General Election will be available in October. You may even print out your ballot with candidate choices and bring it with you to the polls. Note: while you may bring a paper copy of your voters’ guide, you may not bring your phone or electronic device into the voting booth.
Now that you are prepared to be a Waco, TX voter, share your plan with a family member or friend and help them make their plan to vote, too!
Rebecca McCumbers Flavin serves as Co-Communicator for LWV-Waco, leading the taskforce that focuses on voter registration and get out the vote activities. Dr. Flavin is also a Senior Lecturer in Political Science at Baylor University. The League of Women Voters (LWV) is a non-partisan organization that for nearly 100 years has advocated protecting the right to vote and encouraging the exercise of that vote. The Waco chapter was reformed in 2017 as a League-at-Large under LWV-Texas. In the past year LWV-Waco has hosted several events, including a voter candidate forum for the March 2018 Primary, voter registration drives, a movie night, and an educational walk co-hosted by Waco Walks. To join or learn more about LWV, follow us on Facebook by searching for League of Women Voters of Waco, or contact the local chapter at firstname.lastname@example.org .
By Rebecca McCumbers Flavin
While low voter turnout is a problem across the United States, Texas’ voter turnout rates are especially disappointing. According to statistics reported by the Texas Secretary of State, there are more than 15 million registered voters in the state of Texas, yet fewer than 3 million of these voters cast a ballot in the March 2018 Primary. The turnout was lousy for both major parties. In the Republican Party primary, just over ten percent of registered Texas Republicans voted, and approximately 7 percent of registered Texas Democrats voted. The Texas Secretary of State estimates that nearly twenty-four percent of the voting age population (VAP) in Texas is not registered to vote, which means that less than eight percent of Texas’ VAP voted in the March 2018 Primaries. With the local community’s help, the League of Women Voters of Waco hopes to improve these numbers for the general election this November.
In ALW blogs earlier this year we introduced our chapter, but in case you missed those, let us (re)introduce ourselves. The League of Women Voters (LWV) is a non-partisan organization that for nearly 100 years has advocated protecting the right to vote and encouraging the exercise of that vote. LWV pursues this mission by both lobbying elected officials and providing non-partisan voter education materials and programs for citizens. In Waco the LWV had an active local chapter for decades, and after a several year hiatus, the Waco chapter was reformed in 2017 as a League-at-Large under the auspices of the LWV-Texas. In the past year LWV-Waco has hosted several events, including a voter candidate forum for the March 2018 primary election and voter registration drives.
For our next event, we are excited to team up with Waco Walks on Saturday, July 14 for a walk that will be part educational and part social. We will be strolling the border of one of Waco’s most interestingly-shaped voter precinct boundary lines, the “dog leg” border that separates voting precinct 8 from precincts 4 and 7. This “dog leg” also forms part of the boundary between McLennan County Commissioner Precincts 1 and 2. We chose this area for the walk not only based its shape, but also for its general walkability in terms of distance, sidewalk availability, and access to shade. On our walk, which will take us through downtown Waco along Austin and Franklin Avenues, we’ll chat about a number of topics, including the history of redistricting in the United States, how the redistricting process works in anticipation of the redistricting that will occur in the states after the 2020 U.S. Census, and how invisible political boundaries have tangible effects on our everyday lives.
Now, you may be asking yourself, “what does walking a voting precinct boundary line in the middle of the scorching hot Texas summer have to do with increasing voter turnout?” Great question. We would submit there are at least three connections.
The first connection is related to voter education, generally. According to a 2016 survey by the Pew Research Center, non-voters reported being less knowledgeable about politics than “consistent voters” (those who vote in both presidential and mid-term elections) and “drop-off voters” (those who vote in presidential elections but who tend to miss mid-term elections). Similarly, the survey found gaps in political knowledge between drop-off and consistent voters. In this and numerous other studies, there is a positive correlation between the level of political knowledge and voter turnout rates.
The second connection is related to learning about redistricting, specifically. In the U.S. there is a long history of legislators drawing district lines in an effort to protect their own political interests. When districts are gerrymandered to diminish the influence of an opposing political party or community of interest, by “cracking” (dividing voters in the opposing party across different districts to dilute their impact) or “packing” (concentrating voters in opposing party into a few districts so that they win there by overwhelming margins), this can have a negative impact on electoral competitiveness. Political scientists have found that voter turnout tends to be higher in areas where elections are more competitive. Moreover, increasingly sophisticated mapping software makes it easier for elected officials to effectively choose their voters during the redistricting process.
The final connection between walking and talking about voting is that while the act of casting a ballot takes place in the privacy of the voting booth, voter mobilization to increase turnout is necessarily social. If voters encourage nonvoters, for example, this could help foster a culture of voting in McLennan County. Whether you have never missed an election or never voted in an election, we hope you will come share your story with your neighbors during the walk.
So join us on Saturday, July 14 for Waco Walks! We will meet at the Waco-McLennan County Central Library at 1717 Austin Avenue at 8:00 AM. The walk will be less than two miles. Bring a bottle of water and sunblock. Dogs are welcome, but please be prepared to clean up after your pet. Our only ground rule for the walk is that in keeping with the LWV’s strict non-partisan stance, we ask you to leave political party or campaign materials at home. LWV does not support any political parties or candidates for office.
Rebecca McCumbers Flavin serves as Co-Communicator for LWV-Waco, leading the taskforce that focuses on voter registration and get out the vote activities. Dr. Flavin is also a Senior Lecturer in Political Science at Baylor University. To join or learn more about LWV, follow us on Facebook by searching for League of Women Voters of Waco, or contact the local chapter at email@example.com.
By Hannah Byrd
In January of this year, I wandered into my first League of Women Voters meeting. I was pleased with what I found. Wacoans of different generations, political beliefs, and educational backgrounds gathered around a table to discuss how to improve voter participation and education in McLennan County. This is exactly what I had been searching for: an organization that unites citizens in the goal of protecting democracy. I became a student member of the League of Women Voters because I wanted to make positive political change that was non-partisan. In my few months of involvement with the League, I have learned important lessons.
First, more students should get involved with the League. According to The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE), only 50% of eligible young people (ages 18-29) voted in the 2016 presidential election. This number is discouraging, but there is hope. CIRCLE found that young people who are registered to vote, vote in high numbers. One of the League’s main goals is to register voters to increase voter participation. I volunteered at the League’s registration drive in January. We registered someone who was celebrating his 18th birthday that day. It is exciting to help my peers become active political participants. Young people’s perspectives matter, but only if we express them through our vote. The League knows how important young people are to protecting our democracy. A student membership costs only $5 annually.
Second, I have learned the importance of local elections. At the League’s Candidate Forum in February, I listened to candidates running for local political offices explain their platforms. The candidates who win these offices will make decisions that impact everyone in McLennan County on an individual level. County Commissioners maintain our roads, the District Attorney prosecutes criminal cases, and the County Judge oversees the budget for county government operations. These are just a few examples of local elected officials and their responsibilities. Despite these offices’ important functions, local elections tend to have low voter turnout. A small number of eligible voters shape local policy for everyone. When more people vote in these elections, McLennan County becomes a community that works for everyone.
More voters in McLennan County participated in the recent midterm elections than in the past. To continue these positive changes, the League needs volunteers from a variety of backgrounds. Students can impact the future of their communities and country by becoming a member of the League. We can all help by participating in every election, local, state, and national. Our democracy works best when it reflects the will of the people. This can only happen if we do our part to become educated voters and help our neighbors do the same.
Hannah Byrd is a senior at Baylor University where she studies International Studies and Arabic and Middle East Studies. In addition to her involvement with the League of Women Voters, Hannah serves as president of Pursue Mentoring Organization, a Baylor service organization that seeks to empower at-risk middle school girls in Waco ISD. She likes watching matinees at the Hippodrome, spends too much time at Moody Library, and enjoys hiking in Cameron Park on sunny days.
by Steve Orr
When people ask me why I, a man, am a member of the League of Women Voters, I find it helps to recount my voting journey.
I’ve been voting for almost half a century. I find that realization sobering. To think that this country allowed a mere 18-year old to attempt to shape it. And I did do that —attempt to shape this country— and I did so every chance I got. I haven’t always succeeded, but I have always made my best effort to do so.
Sometimes I voted for winners. Sometimes, my vote went to the eventual loser in the race. And sometimes, when I voted for the winner, I was later unhappy with the conduct of that elected official. Regardless, I still voted. I still made my attempt at shaping my country. In those instances when the eventual outcome was disappointing, I vowed to do better the next time … knowing full well that I would vote the next time.
In addition to people, I also voted into existence school and road bonds, resolutions expanding or restricting how people could act, and, from time to time, non-binding resolutions that, for good or ill, never produced any activity at all. Yes, I have done all of that in my near half century.
But I didn’t do it alone.
And I didn’t do it without guidance. I have been referencing the League of Women Voters Election Guide for most of my voting life.
From the very beginning, it has been a companion on which I depended … for a clear description of the candidates, the issues, and the pending legislation. In the flurry of political advertising, flyers, mailbox stuffers, and phone calls, I welcomed the calm, objective descriptions I found within the pages of those guides. They were unique in that they contained just the information I needed to make an informed decision … and nothing more. No candidate was ever favored or pilloried. All I found was the facts … and in plain language.
And so, having a long appreciation of that particular aspect, when our local LWV chapter was reenergizing and reaching out for new members, I was intrigued to consider active membership. Yes, I was a bit surprised to be invited to do so. I had always assumed only women were members; and so, though admiring from afar, I had never thought I could be a member.
Today, I am a dues-paying member. I attend our chapter meetings. I am active on the Voter Education Task Force. I participated in our recent Candidate Forum as a Table Moderator. I have found LWV to be exactly the right place for me, politically. I can be active in the political arena with a group of people, gender considerations aside, who always leave the divisive side of politics outside the door.
To me, that sounds like an organization for everyone.
I’ve been voting for almost half a century. LWV has been advocating for voters for almost an entire century. That’s a perfect team-up for me.
Stephen Orr has been active in the Waco community since he and his wife, Pattie, moved here in 2007. Past community service has included building wheelchair ramps at area homes, assembling recycle bins for distribution at sporting events, and serving on the Waco Convention and Visitor Bureau Advisory Board. He is a graduate (with Class 5) of the LeadershipPlenty Institute-Waco. Currently, he is an active member of the Board of Directors of The Cove, serves on the Waco-McLennan County Library Advisory Commission, serves on the Membership Council of the Baylor Club, and is a member of the DaySpring Baptist Church. The Orrs love cheering on the Lady Bears basketball team and enjoying time with their daughter, son-in-law, and grandkids. And, of course, both are active in the Waco Chapter of the League of Women Voters.
For more information about the Waco Chapter of the League of Women Voters, link to their Facebook page (League of Women Voters of Waco), working group, or join the email list by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Connect with them on Twitter or Instagram.
By Ivy Orr Hamerly, Christina Chan-Park, and Rebecca McCumbers Flavin
In 1920, 20 million new voters won the right to vote. That same year, the League of Women Voters began helping these new voters learn how to exercise their voting rights. Almost 100 years later, the League of Women Voters is still protecting democracy and empowering all voters.
After the 2016 election, we looked for a way to be more politically active while still bringing people together and uniting around shared values and concerns. We found the the League of Women Voters does exactly that. We are inspired by the work that the LWV does to “empower voters” and “defend democracy.” This mission speaks to our calling as educators and involved citizens.
The Waco chapter of the League of Women Voters was active for many decades, but had been dormant for the past few years. In 2017, we revived the Waco chapter, and the LWV of Texas generously provided training and moral support. The W.R. Poage Legislative Library hosted our earliest meetings and is co-sponsoring our candidate forum next month. Our fellow Wacoans invited their friends, distributed voter guides for the 2017 Texas election, learned how to register voters, and more.
One of the things we like about the League is that it is strictly non-partisan and neither supports particular parties nor endorses specific candidates. This does not mean that the League is apolitical. The national and state Leagues are among the most effective grassroots organizations in the United States. The League lobbies Members of Congress and state legislatures about various issues ranging from voting rights to campaign finance reform to environmental sustainability. Both the national and Texas Leagues have websites that provide a wealth of information and tools for all citizens.
Who can join League of Women Voters?
That’s easy – everyone! The League is open to men and women of all ages who want to learn more about our democratic processes and be more civically engaged. Whether you have never voted or have never missed an election, the League is for you. We welcome Wacoans of all political parties as well as those who identify with no party at all.
What kind of work is the League of Women Voters-Waco doing right now?
Candidate Forum: To help Wacoans prepare for the primary election on March 6, we will hold a candidate forum on Tuesday, February 13, at 5:30 PM at the Texas Rangers Hall of Fame. All candidates running for McLennan County Judge, Criminal District Attorney, and Precinct 2 and 4 Commissioner have been asked to participate in this event. The format will be speed-meeting, so everyone who attends will have a chance to meet all the candidates.
Voters Guide: We are writing a non-partisan voters guide for the general election in November. We are working with the LWV-Texas to make sure Waco voters have unbiased information about candidates for local, state, and federal offices.
Voter registration and turnout
Voter Registration Drives: On Saturday, January 27, we will have registrars on-site from 10 AM – 2 PM at the Old Navy at Central Texas Marketplace and from 12 PM – 4 PM at the West Waco Library. If you are not yet registered in McLennan County, or if you need to update your registration, stop by and let us help you.
Voter Turnout: We will also have more information about early voting days, times, and locations at our tables.
Follow us on Facebook to learn about voting rights and voter education on the local, state, and national level. Join the 200+ people who liked/followed our page in 2017. We hope to add 100 more in 2018. Search for League of Women Voters of Waco (@lwvWaco).
If you are not a Facebook user, contact us at email@example.com to join our email list.
How can you get involved in League of Women Voters of Waco, and how much time does it take?
The level of commitment is up to you! You can simply like us on Facebook or become involved in planning an event.
Why should you join us?
We need you, and Waco needs the League! We can work together as neighbors to serve our community today. We can hold our leaders accountable. We can educate ourselves on the issues. We can make democracy work.
Ivy Orr Hamerly is the Coordinator of LWV-Waco. She is a Senior Lecturer in Political Science at Baylor University where she teaches Comparative Politics and researches legislative oversight of executive leaders.
Christina Chan-Park is the Co-Communicator of LWV-Waco in charge of voter education. She is the Science Librarian at Baylor University where her research focuses on scholarly communications, specifically data management, bibliometrics, and academic identity.
Rebecca McCumbers Flavin is the Co-Communicator of LWV-Waco in charge of voter registration and turnout. She is a Senior Lecturer in Political Science at Baylor University where she teaches courses in American constitutional law, Model United Nations, political philosophy, and politics and religion.