League's vision leads to new community collaboration
Sunday, Sep. 9, 2012
Led by the "outside-the-box" thinking of the new LWV-MC vision statement, the Metro League is helping to coordinate a different kind of voter-candidate interaction on Sep. 26.
Called "Meet the Candidates Night" and focusing on empowering voters, the event is cosponsored by the NAACP Columbus Branch, Communications Workers of America 4310 (CWA), and Metro High School. The format: All candidates appearing on the ballot in Franklin County will have three minutes to convince voters to choose them.
"It's different than a typical League candidate night," said Beth Taggart, the League's point person for the event. "But it was the League's nonpartisan, good-government reputation that brought the different groups to us and led us to this exciting collaboration."
Last spring, the League was contacted by the NAACP Columbus Branch and CWA about collaborating with their long-standing candidate night. Although their event was nonpartisan, they had trouble getting good attendance from both parties, and sometimes candidates would outnumber audience.
Just months earlier, Metro High School had expressed interest in working with the League on government-related issues. Metro High School has a math/science focus and attracts students from across central Ohio.
At the League's recommendation, the NAACP and CWA embraced the ideas of changing their venue for the event to Metro High School, involving the high school students in the program, and trying to widen the coalition of sponsors. They did want to keep their traditional open structure for the evening. The League was asked to act as an advisor, make these connections, assist the teachers/students, and facilitate the evening itself.
"It's been great to bring everyone together and watch their ideas and excitement grow," Taggart said.
The result should be a lively and engaging event:
- All candidates appearing on the Franklin County ballot have been invited to attend. Any candidate who attends will get to speak for three minutes, in the order in which he or she arrives at the school. There will be no questions from the audience, although the candidates are encouraged to stay and mingle informally.
- The evening's master of ceremonies will be Ronald Bryant, Director of News and Community Affairs for Minority Brands, a group of minority-focused television stations.
- Part of the evening will be given to announcing the winners of a "Making Democracy Work" poster contest and a "Vote!" rap contest among area high school students.
- With assistance from the League, students have been writing to candidates to encourage their attendance, promoting the evening to the school community, and participating in the poster and rap contests.
- That evening, students will help sign in candidates and act as greeters and timers. In addition, using school laptop computers and with adult assistance, students will help register voters, look up polling locations, and answer questions about early voting.
- The coalition partners are providing food for the evening and prizes for the rap and poster contest winners.
The coalition now also includes Ohio Nurse’s Association, Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, Shaun Frame CWA 4502, Smyrna Missionary Baptist Church, 4501 CWA Voter Empowerment, A. Philip Randolph Institute, and Columbus Impact Corporation-Coalition for Responsive Government.
League volunteers are needed on September 26 to assist the students in their voter service and hosting duties. A few volunteers are also needed earlier in the week to help judge posters and rap entries. For more information or to volunteer, email Beth Taggart at firstname.lastname@example.org or the office at email@example.com.