• Cindy Meredith

VOTE411 Prep for Local Elections

VOTE411 is the online Voter’s Guide prepared by the League of Women Voters to assure voters have all the information they need about the candidates they are eligible to vote for. There is information on all national candidates, as well as state-wide and local candidates. The Guide is non-partisan and includes an option for voters to print a ballot with choices they plan to make when they vote. Having this ballot to take into the voting booth helps voters make informed choices based on the research they have done. This is what empowering voters is all about!

LWV of the United States collects candidate information on national races, and LWV of Texas collects candidate information on state-wide races. My job with our LWV Lavaca County league is to gather information about candidates running for county-wide offices, city, school district, and hospital district races in Lavaca County and enter it into the VOTE411 system so it is available to voters.

Before each election, our League begins the VOTE411 process by composing questions that we ask all candidates to answer. We are careful to compose questions that are unbiased and will provide information that will be helpful to voters. We avoid leading questions or questions that can be interpretted in any way as partisan. These questions, along with a request for a simple bio and a photo, are what I send to candidates.

One of the biggest challenges I face each time I begin to collect information for VOTE411 for an upcoming election is finding email addresses for the candidates. I need this information to contact candidates through the VOTE411 system and give them the opportunity to respond.

County-wide office candidates, such as County Judge and Commissioners, can be found at each political party’s website or Facebook page since they run as an affiliated member of either party. Even then, often it’s just the candidate’s name with no contact information. If there is a phone number I call the candidate and explain why I need the email address. Sometimes I contact the Party Chairperson to ask for the information. For city, school board and hospital district elections, I call each jurisdiction and get the names and contact information of the candidates.

Once I know who is running in each race, I enter this informationn into the VOTE411 system. I send the candidates an email with information about the questions and how they can go about answering them. Once I receive their information, I enter it into the VOTE411 system exactly as it is sent, with no changes made on our part whatsoever.

I have found that some candidates respond right away and are thankful for the opportunity to use VOTE411 to get information out to voters. Other candidates respond after several reminders that we're happy to make, knowing that candidates are busy with their campaigns and have a lot on their plate. Others, unfortunately, either chose not to respond or do not get around to responding. When we do not receive information - even after sending several reminders - all we can do is include a note in in the VOTE411 system that that we received no response. Our goal is to receive information from 100% of the candidates, 100% of the time.

Gathering information for VOTE411 is quite a process but well worth the time and effort involved so the people in our county have all the election and candidate information possible to make their voting decisions.