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NJ Library Association Newsletter

Carmel Loughman | Published on 10/26/2020



The League of Women Voters of the Montclair Area

 Carmel Loughman

by Carmel Loughman, Director, Communications

League of Women Voters of the Montclair Area

The League of Women Voters Montclair Area (“LWVMA”) is a 100-year-old, non-partisan organization, whose mission is to empower voters and defend democracy. Our mission is more important now than ever in these times of disease, political uncertainty, entrenched divisions.

In this pandemic era, the established methods of both registering to vote and voting have changed by necessity. In NJ as of September 4th, persons can now register to vote on-line (with some limitations) and the general election will be vote-by-mail. The public needs accurate and timely information on these changes from a trusted source - the League of Women Voters. 

However, new methods must be utilized to educate the community on these changes.  To that end, we must now rely on digital media outlets and social media platforms, in conjunction with limited in-person contact. Thus, these past couple of months, we have been reaching out to other community organizations such as local libraries, houses of worship, food banks, civic groups, government entities, etc. to establish partnerships to assist in the furtherance of our registration and educational goals.  These partners have also contributed to the army of volunteers who have signed on to work on these goals. Notably, LWVMA’s  particular focus at this time is: to register voters and to educate citizens, all Essex County towns but particularly in underserved areas such as Newark, Irvington and the Oranges.

With respect to registering voters, we have a two-fold approach - in-person events and digital media information dissemination. Our partners have provided us with opportunities for on-site voter registration events by giving us names of persons to contact and/or leads on event dates with expected in-person foot traffic.  For example, LWVMA members have registered voters on-site at the DMV, church food banks, Newark City Hall, BLM rallies, local supermarkets, naturalization ceremonies, etc. We have shared up-to-the minute information with our partners on the new vote-by-mail mandate and on-line registration method in the form of Press Releases, voter flashes, and FAQs , with the expectation that our partners will disseminate this information to organizational membership and contact lists through their own media platforms.  

With respect to voter education, we have participated by invitation as speakers on virtual panels held by schools, senior centers, AARP, and civic organizations.  Young volunteers have created two clear and clever short videos on “How to Register to Vote” and “How to Vote-by-Mail” that we shared with our partners who in turn sent to their membership/contacts. For example, our “How to Register to Vote” was recently screened at Newark Moonlight Cinema (drive-in) during the premiere of the new movie featuring Stacey Abrams, “ALL IN: The Fight for Democracy”. 

Thus, our partners are vital as a channel to disseminate the information we create, to offer us speaking opportunities, to run our informational videos, and to alert us to dates for in-person voter contact. We would look to librarians to help us run voter registration drives, mail-in-ballot tutorials, get out the vote educational campaigns, to target the young people in the librarian’s sphere of influence to encourage voting and civic participation, and to embrace the use of technology to get out the message of the importance of voting.  As Congressman John Lewis said “…The vote is the most powerful non-violent change agent you have in a democratic society.”