Posts Tagged 'Citizen Voter'

Engage the Election 2012: A Webinar Series

The American Democracy Project’s partner organization, The Democracy Commitment (TDC) is sponsoring a set of three free webinars in August focused on the 2012 election cycle. I encourage you to participate to learn more about the work of six leading organizations in the voter registration and education community. The webinars will provide resources and ideas for campus programming.

Thank you TDC for including us!

- Jen Domagal-Goldman, ADP National Manager


Webinar Series

Hosted by The Democracy Commitment, the Engage the Election: 2012 webinar series is an opportunity for college and university campuses to learn more about the programs and resources available to them through national organizations including CIRCLE, the League of Women Voters, the Campus Vote Project, and Student PIRGs. The webinars will presente offerings intended to help ADP & TDC campuses in their efforts to reach out and better engage both students on campus and members of the community in the upcoming national election.

We’re very excited for the opportunity to share the work happening with our national partners and how their resources can help you engage your students in the upcoming national election. We have a great lineup the first three Mondays in August.

To download a schedule with webinar summaries, click here. To register for the webinar series, click here. The password to register is: TDCEngage2012

The following are dates for the webinar series and the presenting partner organizations with a summary of their 30-minute webinar.


Monday, August 6, 2012 @ 3:00pm-4:00pm EDT

Fantasy Politics

The webinar will begin with a brief demo of Fantasy Politics, a free and addictive educational game that applies fantasy football dynamics to politics. Then we will go over how this fits into a civics/social studies/government curriculum as well as discuss best practices for driving student engagement well beyond what would be possible with a textbook. Finally, we’ll finish the session with Q&A.

Presenter: Aaron Michel, CEO

Use Your Vote. Raise Our Voice.

The Student PIRGs’ New Voters Project is a non-partisan student mobilization campaign. Since 1984 we’ve helped to register more than 1.7million people. This webinar will talk through our best practices for ensuring your campus registers and turns out on Election Day. For more information on our campaign check out

Presenter: Leigh-Anne Cole, New Voters Project Director


Monday, August 13, 2012 @ 3:00pm-4:00pm EDT

League of Women Voters

The League of Women Voters, a leader in engaging and empowering voters for more than 90 years, is active in 800 communities nationwide and ready to work with community college campuses this fall! From helping out with voter registration drives to providing quality nonpartisan information about candidates and the basics you need to know to help your friends get ready for Election Day, the League stands ready to work together. The webinar will be about the League’s work and ways you can join forces with a local League in your area.

Presenter: Maggie Duncan, Elections Program Manager

Campus Vote Project (CVP)

CVP is a campaign of the Fair Elections Legal Network to help colleges break down barriers to voting that disproportionately affect students. This webinar will summarize specific reforms from the CVP toolkit that a school can implement to get college students the information they need to register and vote. It will also cover important election rules and will describe the state-specific resources CVP can provide to support election awareness, voter registration, and GOTV efforts.

Presenter: Dan Vicuna, Staff Attorney and Campus Vote Project Coordinator


Monday, August 20, 2012 @ 3:00pm-4:00pm EDT

Turbo Vote

TurboVote is a service that makes registering to vote, voting by mail, and never missing an election as easy as renting a netflix DVD.  Over 20 colleges across the country have partnered with TurboVote to provide the service on their campuses.  In this webinar, TurboVote Director of Partnerships Sam Novey will discuss exactly how TurboVote works for both users and institutional partners.

Presenter: Seth Flaxman, Executive Director and Co-founder


TurboVote is a service that makes registering to vote, voting by mail, and never missing an election as easy as renting a netflix DVD.  Over 20 colleges across the country have partnered with TurboVote to provide the service on their campuses.  In this webinar, TurboVote Director of Partnerships Sam Novey will discuss exactly how TurboVote works for both users and institutional partners.

Presenter: Nancy Thomas, Director, Initiatives for the Study of Higher Education and Public Life


To download a schedule with webinar summaries, click here. To register for the webinar series, click here. The password to register is: TDCEngage2012

For more information about Engage the Election: 2012 you can visit TDC’s website under “Initiatives.” You can also engage amongst your colleagues and students on the Engage the Election: 2012 Facebook page.

Please feel free to share this information with anyone on your college campus that you believe would benefit from the information and resources of this series.

Super Saturday at Kennesaw State University

By Carlton Usher, Kennesaw State University

Super Saturday is the Atlanta Urban League Young Professional’s (AULYP) annual voter education series that emphasizes voting in national, state and local elections, as well as working with elected officials to enact change. Kennesaw State University’s American Democracy Project has been and remains a central partner since 2006.  In 2006, Dr. Carlton Usher accompanied eight students affiliated with the African American Male Initiatives at Kennesaw State University (KSUAAMI) to the first event held at D.M. Terrell High School in Atlanta.

After the successful event at Terrell High School, Dr. Usher met with several community organizers to explore the possibility of organizing another event with Kennesaw State University as a major participant. Consequently, with the support of Dr. Ralph Rascati, Dean of the University College, and other members of the American Democracy Project team, Dr. Usher initiated a strong and lasting partnership with AULYP. The AULYP consists of bright and focused young leaders with strong reputations in governance, community development, and entrepreneurship. We remain extremely proud go these future leaders.

Super Saturday 2008 featured opening remarks by Beverly Hall, the superintendent of Atlanta Public Schools, a keynote by Georgia State Senator Vincent Fort whose tireless work includes countering mortgage and lending redlining and gentrification in the downtown Atlanta neighborhoods.  The mayoral panel moderated by WSBTV 2 reporter Tom Jones included the then

Super Saturday 2008: Candidate now Mayor Elect Kasim Reed, Dr. Carlton Usher and Kennesaw State University Students

Candidate and current mayor Kasim Reed, Atlanta City Council members Mary Norwood and Caesar Mitchell, and Jessie Spikes senior partner at McKenna Long and Aldridge


Super Saturday 2009 featured candidates Lisa Borders, Mary Norwood, Kasim Reed, Jessie Spikes and Glenn Thomas. Opening remarks were delivered by Atlanta Deputy Fire Chief Nishiyama Willis.

Super Saturday 2009: mayoral candidates Lisa Borders, Mary Norwood, Kasim Reed, Lisa Borders, Jessie Spikes and Glenn Thomas, Dr. Carlton Usher, Sherwin Murray.


With the City Council President Lisa Borders conceding in a very close race, and the new mayor Kasim Reed in place, we focused our Super Saturday 2010 on the gubernatorial primary. Unlike the past events planned for September, this day of civic engagement was slated for considering both major parties primaries for July 20, 2010.  A crowd of approximately 100 people heard Democrats DuBose Porter, David Poythress, Georgia Attorney General Thurbert Baker, and Bill Bolton, as well as representatives of Democrat Carl Camon and Republican John Oxendine. The candidates discussed the challenges they believe the next governor should address. Most

Super Saturday 2010: Georgia Gubernatorial Debates, Grady High School Atlanta, Georgia

talked about the state of the economy, local issues such as transportation, water, and public safety. After a few opening remarks from several local political strategists and lawmakers, the audience experienced an awesome and heartfelt keynote address by labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond (he is currently running for the senate against incumbent John Isakson).  CBS news anchor Danielle Knox moderated the event and several news outlets interviewed the candidates before and after the debates. The coverage was extensive and Kennesaw and the American Democracy Project’s work in conjunction the AULYP remains one of the hallmark events leading up to the November election.

Georgia Gubernatorial candidates take questions from reporters.

Georgia Gubernatorial candidates take questions from reporters.

Georgia Gubernatorial candidates take questions from reporters.







Media and Elections: The Return of the Citizen Voter

By Bill Payne, University of Minnesota, Duluth

In 2004, I traveled America making a documentary about why only half of Americans who are eligible to vote choose to do so. At the time, I was a 44 year-old liberal. Zack Swanson, a 24 year-old conservative, traveled with me as co-producer and videographer. We went to 22 states and interviewed about 300 people on camera. The result was the documentary 50/50: The American Divide.

I learned a lot. The most profound insight I gained was how complex individual voters are. We approached many people on the street, describing our documentary and telling the subject that we were from different sides of the political spectrum. We engaged people in conversation about why they vote or don’t vote, how they perceived media coverage of politics, and what they felt needed to change about the electoral process to get more people involved.

The Americans we interviewed were complex and difficult to characterize using the simplistic labels we see so often in the media or polls. Liberals espoused conservative views. Conservatives expressed liberal views. And almost everyone was disgusted with the influence of money on elections and the way the media reported the process.

I had made a commitment during the shooting of the documentary to study the media and how it was reporting the election. What Zack and I experienced in person was far different than what we saw being reported on television, in print media, and on talk radio. American voters, and the politicians that vie to represent their views, cannot be fairly represented in 30-second sound bites.

What really matters in an election is representation. An individual must decide which candidate will best represent them when the governing body begins to address the legislative issues before us. Each citizen must develop a political perspective. They must gather the information they need to determine which candidate will represent their perspective most often. In 1776, Americans declared:

“….governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.”

The electoral process is designed to continually “institute new government”. Information gathering is crucial to this ongoing reinvention. Without information that has integrity, we cannot make good decisions. The media, which acts as the largest and most pervasive conduit of information, is not driven by what will most likely result in our “collective safety and happiness”. It is driven by economic and political self-interest.

We the people cannot allow the media to be the only way the story of the next election will be told. They will begin to frame the story of the 2012 election November 3rd of this year. It will not be a true representation of who we are, what we want or need, or how we see the issues. It will perpetuate the consumer politics that have infantilized us.

My experience making 50/50 taught me to engage with people who disagreed with me. If we all try to do this, the conversation that ensues may help us create government in a way that will allow us to move forward as we are able. This act of reaching across political difference, coupled with other initiatives sure to arise from the many citizens that will become involved in this movement, can bring the responsibility of governance back into the hands of “We The People”.

We the People – The Return of Citizen Voters Part 2

By Harry Boyte, Center for Democracy and Citizenship, as follow up to this blog post.

As I argued in the “We the People” post on the American Democracy Project blog on September 22, in an election season dominated by attack ads and hollow campaign rhetoric, voters of every stripe are responding in kind. They express disgust that politicians haven’t fixed our problems, while voicing the certainty that politicians can’t possibly do anything useful.  It is a long way from the animating message of collective action embodied in the winning theme of the 2008 campaign, “Yes we can.”

Despite the challenges, a “We the People” initiative that aims to animate “citizen voters” in 2012 could have significant effect. While many leaders are needed in such an initiative, college students in American Democracy Project schools can take key leadership, reminiscent of the roles students played in the civil rights movement of the 1960s.

When the question is the civic health of elections, the government, and the nation itself, and when the electoral process is threatening to spin out of control, we need a broad movement in which the whole citizenry works to redeem American democracy. Civically-oriented politicians are allies and partners, not enemies, in this work. Steve Kelley, a friend who ran for the Democratic nomination for governor this last spring on a productive citizenship message, said much the same thing based on his experiences. He had been head of the education committee in the state senate, and came close to winning the nomination. But he said that when your message is civic revitalization, it’s very hard as a candidate to “supply” it unless there is “demand.” This is doubly true for governance – it may be the problem of the Obama administration, which shifted quickly after the election from “yes we can” to “I and my administration will do it.” While Obama’s shift reflects the dominant government-centered approach to governance around the world, it also responds to the never-ending demand from citizens that government “fix things.”  This has to change.

A “We the People” movement should aim to create demand for citizen-centered politics and governance, embodying the spirit of the preamble to the Constitution with its powerful, productive verbs. These convey the point that “we the people” create government as the instrument of our collective work. Below are several elements which suggest that preparation for and enactment of a “We the People” movement could transform the experience of citizenship not only for the students but also for the country.

1)  Public stages in the civil rights movement. The March on Washington is the obvious example, recounted splendidly by Charles Euchner in Nobody Going to Turn Me Around – a People’s History of the March on Washington. The program notes summarized the message, calling people to avoid provocateurs who might incite violence: “In a neighborhood dispute there may be stunts, rough words and hot insults; but when a whole people speaks to its government the quality of the action and the dialogue needs to reflect the worth of that people and the responsibility of that government.” Euchner’s book shows how the March and its long, careful preparation called the nation to citizenship. The new book by Bruce Watson, Freedom Summer: The Savage Season That Made Mississippi Burn and Made America a Democracy, could also be a primer for students today. It tells the story of how college students organized by the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee faced down the brutality of racist police and civic organizations to dramatize segregation. At the end of the summer, at the Democratic Convention, Fannie Lou Hamer, a tenant farmer and civil rights leader, transfixed the country on television. Such moments, while transforming the lives of those directly involved, also significantly impacted broader public attitudes, laying the ground for civil rights victories and for deep culture change.

2)  Public stages in broad-based organizing. The heart of broad-based organizing (of the kind which shaped Obama) is public stages, “accountability sessions,” where citizens interact with politicians in mature, confident ways. An excellent account is found in Richard Wood’s Faith in Action, a study of the cultural politics of broad-based organizing. He shows how the Catholic priest in an affiliate of the Oakland Community Organization educates his congregation to “act like adults” with politicians, rather than like needy children. There are also limits to this pattern, stemming from organizers’ pessimism about larger change. Interestingly, Obama’s essay in the collection After Alinsky: Community Organizing in Illinois (1990) identified them. Obama observed, “Most community organizing groups practice…a ‘consumer advocacy’ approach, with a focus on wrestling services and resources from the outside powers that be. Few are thinking of harnessing the internal productive capacities…that exist in communities.” With millions of citizens now bewailing the failure of the administration to solve our problems, this is the time for a “We the People”/Citizen Voter movement to catalyze a different dialogue, focused on the agency of everyone.

3)   Public stages in Public Achievement. I began Public Achievement, a youth civic education and engagement initiative, in 1990, with lessons of the civil rights movement in mind. In Public Achievement, young people work on public problems and issues they identify, ranging from teen pregnancy and drug use to school curriculum and recreational opportunities. We have seen again and again that when young people feel visible, competent, confident, and taken seriously in public settings they are able to integrate the civic meaning of their work with a new depth and impact. For instance, PA teams from eight schools met with the newly-elected Governor Jesse Ventura in 1999, interacting with him in an “adult way.”  They all said their confidence stemmed from the seriousness of their public work. It had large impact on the young people and a huge impact on Ventura, who recognized one of the team leaders, Joey Lynch, a thirteen year old in the PA playground group at St. Bernard’s, as a “citizen leader prevailing against all odds” at the first State of the State address to the legislature. Ventura gave stories from this encounter for months, contrasting it with the gushy celebrity encounters which young people usually had with him.

4)   Responses to the “We the People” blog. These speak to the need for self-reflection, discussion, and careful preparation if we are to make much dent in elections and people’s views of government. They suggest passion for taking action to change election dynamics and also the larger alienation from government. As Yasmin Karimian, the savvy president of student government at University of Maryland/Baltimore who led a shift from government as a social service and complaint body into an organizing center, put it, “I cannot wait to get to work [on this].” Karimian observed that despite their success in transforming student government, students need to “really change the way we think about government,” since they feel that broader change is “a daunting task.” Tim Shaffer describes how the consumer/infantilizing culture affects us all. Amy Bravo highlights how elections are a rare moment of visible public encounter in our society. Bill Payne’s comments come from the documentary he and a Republican did about the 2004 election, 50 – 50. It showed how voters are much more sophisticated, complex, and insightful than the partisan boxes they’re usually placed in.

5)  The “Millennial Generation.” By 2012 with the election of 2010 as an embarrassing text, young adults, “Millennials,” will be more than ready to help to create a dynamic in which citizens challenge each other and all of us to act like adults, moving from shoppers of government services to owners of the store. Young people are accused of apathy. But as Cecilia Orphan, the young manager of the American Democracy Project, puts it, “While the ‘me first’ is there, it’s not the animating theme for the generation. We’ve had these events in our lives (9/11, the tsunami in Asia, Hurricane Katrina, Obama’s election, etc.) where we got engaged and felt like we were making a difference. But then it tapered off because there were no clear ways forward. There was no one helping us understand that these events were a call to sustained – not episodic – citizenship.” Heather Smith, director of Rock the Vote, made a similar point on the News Hour September 29, explaining why young adults aren’t enthusiastic about the ’10 election. “People got engaged in ’08 [because] they do believe, as a generation, they can change this country and change the world. And [Obama] pointed a path forward to do that. Afterwards, they felt like, where did our leader go? They can be reengaged and re-energized. But someone needs to push that path forward.”

6)  ADP as a base. Many campuses in the American Democracy Project have organized candidate forums over the last several years, and Constitution Day, September 17, is widely celebrated. A “We the People”/Citizen Voter effort in 2012 needs to build on such experiences and other deliberative public work, hosting and organizing multi-layered forums.

We’ll need a careful planning process, fundraising, and an organizing team to make this real. It will need to be a step by step process, but several other possible building blocks are appearing: These include

  • The November 11-12 Civic Agency Initiative meeting in Washington;
  • The civic engagement education minor meetings — making the electoral dysfunction a topic of discussion and constructive work with  the five teacher education programs to integrate Public Achievement into their core curriculum can convey the reality and importance of their work;
  • We the People/Citizen voter training workshop in the Twin Cities spring 2011. The CDC is considering organizing at least one such workshop;
  • The ADP national conference, which may have a citizenship focus;
  • Work with the Kettering Foundation on their issue book for 2012; the foundation has expressed interest in making the NIF book a resource for “We the People”;
  • Work with the American Library Association Center on Public Life, which has a strong relation with campus libraries. According to Nancy Kranich, such libraries and their staff are underutilized civic resources;
  • Constitution Day, September 17, 2011, on ADP campuses, which could be an occasion to talk about and prepare for the election in 2012.

There are many ways to define success in a We the People/Citizen Voter effort, and a spectrum of possibilities. These range from a handful of campuses where students prepare, undertake public work, organize candidate forums, and learn lasting civic lessons, to the generation of a broad movement through ADP and beyond. In the latter case, many other groups and citizens could join in. The potential is very large.

Getting started: We encourage “salons” or “coffee parties” this fall, discussing the election, its problems, and how to begin preparing for a citizen response in 2012. The key, as Bill Payne stresses, is that these should be diverse, with differences especially across partisan divides.

Whatever transpires, the words of the freedom song are to the point: We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.

This is it! Blitz Week at Rock the Vote

Post by Mike Kelly of Rock the Vote for the ADP blog.

This is it. We are down to the final days to register voters for the critical 2010 elections.

Voter registration deadlines start next Saturday and by Tuesday, October 5th, the window to register to vote will be closed in over half of the states in the country. (If you need to find a state’s voter registration deadline, please visit our interactive election center Electionland.)

That’s why we want to invite you to join our efforts to push online voter registration next week. It is Blitz Week at Rock the Vote!

You have your online voter registration tool and a community of people that need to have their voices heard in November. I hope you will make sure they are eligible to vote.

Here are two easy things you can do:

1. Send an email to your students. Through years of testing, we have found that the best messages are straightforward and simple. Let people know that the registration deadline is coming up (be precise about the date, if possible) and make sure they know that folks need to re-register at their current address if they have moved since the last time they registered. And, of course, include links to your voter registration tool.

2. Push the link to your voter registration tool on social networks like Facebook and Twitter . . . and urge your people to share the link to register their friends and family, too.

As always, you can check your progress, get your unique URL to use in emails and social network posts, get the code to put the widget on your website and more at this website.

If you have any questions, shoot us an email – – and we’ll get you what you need.



We know you want to vote.  And to vote with confidence.  But maybe people yelling at each other at town hall meetings, negative ads and TV shout-fests aren’t getting you the information you need to cast an informed ballot in the 2010 elections.

Well, we’re here to help.  We helped create Electionland as a one-stop shop for the 2010 elections — the place where you can ask and answer questions on everything related to elections in Washington state.  You can make sure you are registered to vote before the voter registration deadline.  You can ask questions about voting as a student or what to do if you have recently moved.  You have access to folks with big brains about what’s on the ballot. Candidates and experts will answer your questions directly.

It is the place to ask questions, provide answers or make comments on anything and everything around the election.

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