League of Women Voters of Oakland County reaching out to voters through voter guides

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The League of Women Voters of Michigan created Voter Guides to inform residents of the upcoming election on Nov. 3. 

The League of Women Voters creates voter guides every two years during even-numbered election cycles that provide information on official candidates. 

“Official candidates on the ballot get sent questionnaires, briefly two questions, one about their background and one about their priorities for whatever office they were seeking to hold,” said Debra Horner, coordinator of voter guide production. “They would send those back to us, and we put them into a printable guide, and distribute them around the county to city halls, township halls, local library, places they could be distributed.”

The League of Women Voters, Voter Guide is available online and as a hard copy. Credit: League of Women Voters of Oakland Area 

Transition to online

In 2016, the League of Women Voters began posting the guide online, as well. 

Instead of candidates submitting their questionnaires by email or mail, they would submit their answers to the online system Vote411. Voters can then put in their home address and ZIP code to look at the specific candidates who will be on their ballot, said Homer. 

“We have kind of a parallel system going,” said Homer. “We have the candidates who are submitting answers into their online system, which still gets displayed online. But then, we download all of those answers and gather them together, put them in a printable version, print-off hard copies, and distribute from around the county.”

Spreading the word 

This year, the League of Women Voters of Michigan printed 110,000 voter guides this year, more than ever before, said Betsy Cushman, member of the board of directors at League of Women Voters of Michigan.

Quite a few leagues throughout Michigan tried something new this year, looking into their food banks and developed in areas that League of Women Voters hadn’t reached before. For Cushman, that area was her own back porch. 

“I have thousands (of guides) on my back porch along with voter rights guides,” Cushman said. “I had a woman come and take them to a food distribution center and to the homeless. She said when she went back they were reading them and loved them.”

The League 

The League of Women Voters is a national non-partisan political organization. 

“Our main goal is to encourage voting and most importantly encourage you to become an informed voter,” said Tera Moon, member of the League of Women Voters of Michigan board of directors. “We provide nonpartisan  information about candidates to the electorate.”

The League of Women Voters was created in 1919, the year after women were granted the right to vote.  

“It grew out of the women’s suffrage movement,” Cushman said. “Women who had been working so hard for suffrage realized, once they were going to get to vote, they then thought, how can we use our vote wisely. They formed the league and made a clear decision not to be partisan or to support a political party.”

Being a non-partisan organization is one of the reasons that Moon joined the League of Women Voters. 

“I was looking for non-partisan information myself and it is always hard to find information especially about local candidates,” said Moon.

“I am also a librarian in my profession, so I believe in the spread of information, and I believe information should be as widely accessible as possible, and I just love the neutrality and non-partisan stance of the league.”

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