By Becca Muncy
With just a few days until Election Day, tensions may be running high around you. A new study from the American Psychological Association found that 68% of American adults, across all political affiliations, say that the election is a significant source of stress in their lives. So, if this election season has you feeling anxious, frustrated, or burnt out, you’re not alone. Here are some ways to manage election stress and fatigue now and on November 3:
- Set boundaries for yourself. Randal Boldt, Senior Associate Director, Training Director & Supervising Psychologist at the Baylor Counseling Center, says that the most important thing you can do to manage election stress is set boundaries. He says that, “caring about political outcomes is a healthy part of supporting a society,” but acknowledges that, “it can also be overwhelming at times.” Setting boundaries, like limiting your news consumption on Election Day, can help you from getting too overwhelmed.
- Find good news. In addition to setting boundaries around news consumption, seeking out good news can help, too. During an election season, it can seem like all the news is negative, inflammatory, or frustrating. Keeping up with current events is a good thing, but counterbalancing negative election news with inspiring and positive news might help keep you from getting too overwhelmed. Need help finding good news? Take a look at UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Magazine or the Solutions Journalism Network, or follow accounts like @goodnews_movement on social media.
No matter the outcome of the election, at least some people are going to experience disappointment if their chosen candidate loses the presidential race. And even if you are the coolest, calmest, and most collected you’ve ever been on Election Day, you can still feel grief over your candidate losing. Here are some ways to handle those negative feelings:
- Remember that disappointment is a normal thing. Boldt says acknowledging and facing your grief is important. This year may feel particularly stressful and the election may seem extra divisive, but remember that disappointment and grief are normal parts of life, no matter the circumstances. Acknowledging and naming your feelings of grief or disappointment is the first step of healing.
- Take a break or talk to someone. Allow yourself a break from your normal tasks, as you would if you were grieving anything else. Before Election Day, find a trusted person you can talk to and process your feelings with in case things don’t go your way.
- Find a way to move forward. Boldt says channeling your disappointment into action can be helpful. “Feelings of helplessness can be overwhelming, but after some healthy grieving… putting your emotion and energy into changing the future can be very healing.” Remember that there are still ways you can help those in your community, regardless of who is commander in chief.
Even if you are unhappy about the outcome of the election, that doesn’t diminish the fact that you participated and did your part to make your community better. Plus, the great thing about the U.S. election cycle is that you’ll have many more opportunities to participate in elections. From national to state to local government, from primaries to midterms and everything in between – there’s always next year!
Becca Muncy is an Act Locally intern from Dallas. She is studying professional writing at Baylor University and is completing her senior year.
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 protected]for more information.
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 [email protected].
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 protected] 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 [email protected] 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 protected].
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 protected] for more information.
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 [email protected] .
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 protected].
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 Craig Nash
I’ve been thinking about anger and its place in our public discourse and how we communicate with our neighbors.
I’m no techie, which makes it difficult for me to understand everything about Russian “bots,” data analysis, and all the other digital interference that has been in the news since the last Presidential election. But I do understand that it was (and is) more than an effort to elect a certain person to office or to sway public opinion about a particular issue. The ultimate goal is to create instability and to sow chaos. To make us so angry at each other that we don’t trust the motives of our neighbor. And it has worked. We’ve all chosen our tribes and are yelling at each other across the expanse.
This is unsettling. Though I love an entertaining argument among friends, it is always with the assumption that, once it is over, both sides are able to lay down their swords and enjoy a drink of choice together. There’s a point, however, where arguing seems counterproductive and dangerous. Though I fail at this often, there’s a point when I want us to talk to each other more calmly, rationally and respectfully.
I am also aware, however, of this: The last sentence I wrote in the previous paragraph is a product of my place in society. Calm, rational and respectful dialogue is the goal of those of us with privilege. For me, it is a privilege my whiteness, straightness and maleness to demand “calm, rational respect” occur during dialogue. It’s also a privilege for me to DEFINE what is meant by calm, rational and respectful. Demanding these things in conversation about big issues allows people like me to control the conversation and, more often than not, maintain the status quo.
So, there are these two things I hold in tension—The need to talk to each other more calmly and respectfully on one hand, and on the other, the realization that my wanting this is a result of my place in the world.
We have a lot of calls for calm dialogue in our country. At least once a week I see a news show convene a group of people with disparate opinions on a given topic to have a dialogue. It usually ends with an exhale by the moderator and a calm, sweet, “Now wasn’t that nice? No one got angry. You listened and spoke to each other with respect.” What we don’t often hear is a defense of anger and emotion. So I decided to ask some of my friends who are experts in being told to be more calm and rational—women—what they thought about these ideas ruminating in my mind. Their responses were instructive, and rather than giving commentary on what I learned, I wanted to share directly some of the things they had to say.
Respondent #1 (In addition to being female, also a Person of Color.): “…We want to trust our neighbors but that does require them to speak out and risk giving up some of their privilege and protection which is not easy to do…. I know that for myself and other friends of Color that we are not in place that we can filter or code switch* at all. Being polite and speaking reasonably is something we have done for so long that we end up taking ourselves completely out of those spaces and conversations to maintain our sanity, but also so that we don’t do irreparable damage to those people we care about while we wait for the conversation to shift.”
(*Note: “Code Switching” in this context refers to modifying behavior, tone, dialect, appearance, etc. in order to accommodate to the social norms of another — usually dominant — group.)
Respondent #2: “Anger as an emotion is a good thing. It’s an alarm bell that says you are being violated… The problem isn’t anger, the problem is injustice. Anger is the right of the oppressed, and blaming anger for our problems mislabels the problem. That being said, how we wield anger is important…. I am less and less convinced that civil discourse is the answer…at least, it cannot be the answer when “civil” discourse favors the privilege and the status quo, which it so often does. I’m not saying we ought to yell profanities and call names…I’m just saying anger is not the enemy here. You can be very angry and still say things that are true and constructive.
At this point I anticipate the pushback to these thoughts about anger, which often takes some form of this question: “Ok, I hear you. But what do you want me to do.”
Respondent #3: “People seem to want to circumvent the understanding part. ‘let’s just make the changes and be done with it.’ (i.e. I don’t want to feel anything, I want to be efficient with my time which means let’s get to a solution) Majority members don’t seem to have time to hear the pain or anger often.”
Respondent #4: Many times marginalized groups have tried polite civil discourse, and have not been listened to. Then, when they speak with frustration and anger, they are criticized. As a society we say, oh well I would listen to you if you weren’t so angry/emotional, when in truth many groups have tried that and gone unheard. Calling for civility has been a way that our society has attempted to quiet or sidestep uncomfortable conversations. That being said, I do think civil discourse has its place especially if trying to reach beyond someone’s instinctual tribal reactions. Also speaking from privilege as a white female, speaking calmly and politely has helped me deescalate many situations, but it has also forced me to not ask for what I needed out of a situation for the sake of everyone getting along.
I think everyone would agree that we live in turbulent times. Maybe not any more turbulent than other times, but the stakes seem heightened. From national issues of gun violence, immigration and race relations, to local conversations about the fate of our schools and the location of our landfills, we are all bumping into each other’s worldviews and opinions in ways that can feel uncomfortable. What I have learned from these women is that this discomfort may be needed. Or, perhaps, the discomfort that certain groups have owned as a part of their inheritance needs to be shifted onto those of us for whom discomfort is foreign.
Craig Nash has lived in Waco since 2000. Since then he has worked at Baylor, been a seminary student, managed a hotel restaurant, been the “Barnes and Noble guy,” pastored a church and once again works for Baylor through the Texas Hunger Initiative. He lives with his dog Jane, religiously re-watches the same 4 series on Netflix over and over again, and considers himself an amateur country music historian.
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 [email protected]. Connect with them on Twitter or Instagram.