Making Democracy Work

Recent Accomplishments

Activities of the Local League in the Past Year

Interested in knowing what the local League does? This list of activities over the past year will give you an overview of our work.

Public Advocacy Voter Protection Grant

The League of Women Voters of the Holland Area participated again in a state-wide program which delivered a voter information campaign and an election observer program to make voting easier in our community. We held several voter registration events, including the Department of Human Services office, the Holland Community Kitchen, a Holland Housing Alliance event and Holland High School Homecoming game with students from the Holland Community Relations Committee.

We have continued to build relationships with Holland area community groups. We provided materials for a neighborhood canvassing effort. The materials listed "5 Things You Need To Know on Election Day" with the League logo and VOTE411.org information. This was printed in English on one side and Spanish on the other. Population statistics for Holland indicate we now have over 24 percent of the population listed as Hispanic. Bookmarks advertising the League's VOTE411.org website were distributed at numerous events which provided candidate and ballot proposal information for the November election.

Thirteen volunteers took poll watching training and observed at 11 polling places. This activity provides our organization with information on difficulties voters may be experiencing. We did find that there are people who still don't understand they must register before voting. Language issues also present barriers to voting in our community. In continuing voter education campaigns, there are needs to explain the voting process to students to prepare them. Encouraging the use of absentee ballots and understanding how to get them may benefit the elderly and language challenged residents. We thank these volunteers for their willingness to participate in this important project.

Our relationships with the Clerks has helped us understand and identify problems in the registration process and voting. We learned that registrations for some residents living in transitional housing have been returned to the Clerk's office as undeliverable. The Post Office has a policy which doesn't allow an address change for a person living in a shelter. Shelters are considered a corporate entity and not a residence, and if the company (shelter) hasn't moved, the post office does not recognize a resident's change of addresses. This issue was referred to a legal team working with the League.

Voter Service Activities

VOTE411 Since 2014 was a major election year, the LWVHA season began in June, working with local and county clerks to have access to the candidates and voter issues that would be on the primary ballots. Armed with that data we:
  • Worked with templates on VOTE411 to prepare the raw information that goes out to candidates for their information and answers to basic questions on the VOTE411 online voter guide. Roughly 70% of candidates responded.
  • Entered the wording of ballot issues by counties and municipalities on VOTE411
  • For the general election we added the candidates for municipal school board elections and added all the new ballot issues.

CANDIDATE FORUMS We provided candidates forums in several venues for state house and senate races in both the primary and general elections. The forums were videotaped in most cases and the videos were posted on our website for viewing. Since we never support or oppose candidates for public office, all candidates are invited to our forums.

VOTER GUIDES Using the information submitted by LWVs around the state and responses from candidates, the LWV of Michigan printed Voter Guides for distribution state-wide. We placed ours in public libraries and added additional information on local races as an insert. This was a supplement to the online voter guide VOTE411, which provided polling locations and personal ballot information for Michigan voters.

VOTER PROTECTION PROJECT The LWVHA also participated in an ongoing grant project to identify problems voters might have at the polls. (See the section on "Voter Protection" for more details.) We had many volunteers as election observers in precincts. These poll watchers insured that the voting process was smooth and that voters were able to vote easily and without challenges of access to locations or photo ID requirements.

VOTER INFORMATION Our website and Facebook page provided timely information on voter registration deadlines, dates for forums, voter registration events and links to regional and state voter information.

Sustainability Along the Lakeshore

Solar Powered Pottery Kilns? That's right. For our September 2014 meeting, LWV-Holland members and guests learned about this project. Dawn Soltysiak is the owner of the 30-acre Fernwood Farm and the pottery artist with Khnemu Studio southwest of Fennville. Fourteen years ago Dawn and her husband Rob purchased the small farm and made a commitment to live a sustainable lifestyle. Part of this commitment was the installation of 78 solar panels, absorbing sunlight and converting it to just under 25,000 kilowatts of electricity each year, enough to run Dawn's many pottery kilns. Dawn provided an informative overview of the project with the cost/benefit analysis.

A new series of free educational events called "Living Sustainably along the Lakeshore" kicked off on Monday, November 17 with a session called "Sustainability 101: Your Role." Paul Lilly, Chair of Holland's Sustainability Committee opened the event with an overview, followed by the opportunity for people to speak with area organizations involved in the environmental sustainability movement. This series is sponsored by the City of Holland's Sustainability committee, Herrick District Library, the League of Women Voters, Hope College, and the Meijer Campus of Grand Valley State University.