League of Women Voters plans 3 informational events before May 7 election

With Ottawa County’s May 7 special election around the corner, it’s a busy time for the League of Women Voters of the Holland Area. The nonprofit is at schools registering soon-to-be 18-year-olds to vote and holding forums to educate voters about what’s on the ballots.

“We are strictly nonpartisan. We don't support any candidates or any political organization,” says  League member Paula Edwards, who is part of the volunteer team organizing the events. 

Upcoming League activities include:

April 11: Holland High School voter registration. High school students who are 17 1/2 years old or older will have an opportunity to register to vote. League members will provide information about registering and voting.

April 16: LAUP town hall on voting rights for Latino voters. Michigan's new voting rights law and the voting process will be explained. A sample polling location will be set up for participants. Voter registration will be available. 6 p.m. at the Latin Americans United for Progress (LAUP) office, 430 W. 17th St. #31.

April 18: West Ottawa High School voter registration. High school students who are 17 1/2 years old or older will have an opportunity to register to vote. League members will provide information about registering and voting.

April 18: Ottawa County Commission candidate meet and greet. All registered candidates for the Ottawa County Commission are invited to this event. Each candidate will have five minutes to explain why they are running. Candidates will then be at tables around the room where they can speak to voters and hand out campaign materials. 6:30 p.m. at the Howard Miller Library, 14 S. Church St., Zeeland.

April 26: Saugatuck High School voter registration. This will be an event to register Saugatuck High School seniors.

April 30: Hamilton High School voter registration. League members will be at Hamilton High School during lunch time with voter information. Students will have an opportunity to register to vote.

May 2: Town Hall in Grand Haven on the new voting rights law. This presentation will explain Michigan's new voting rights law and discuss primary elections. 6:30-7:45 p.m., Second Christian Reformed Church, North Hall, 2021 Sheldon Road, Grand Haven.

“We scheduled this one meet and greet because we know that people are going to be thinking about that before the May election,” Edwards says. "We have so many candidates who have accepted, we're reducing the usual 5 minutes for their statements down to 3 to 4 minutes, in order to give constituents a half hour or so to interact with the candidates."

She added that there will likely be another meet and greet before August election.

"We hope to hold forums where the candidates get to answer questions," Edwards. "We did some of these forums in 2022, but 2024 is just a bigger election year and so we’re doing more to get the public familiar with who their candidates are.” 

Online help also coming

The League also has the VOTE411 voter information system. In addition to finding out what's on their ballot, this site will link constituents to a site to register online or to check their registration status, or to find out where their polling location is. It's also where voters can find answers the candidates submitted to the League’s questionnaire.

“We post the answers verbatim so people can see what candidates have to say exactly in their own words, and voters can do their own research,” says Edwards.

League volunteers will be at festivals and community events throughout the year registering voters and answering election questions.

Since Ballot Proposal 22-2, also known as Prop 2, was passed overwhelmingly by state voters in 2022, it’s easier to register in Michigan.

The League of Women Voters of the Holland Area register voters at the 2023 Juneteenth festival in Holland.

The League continues to hold registration drives, but they often involve people taking a picture of the QR code that allows them to register online.

“It's a lot less paper registration than it used to be,” Edwards says. “We used to walk away with tons of papers, which we delivered to each of the clerks. Voter registration is becoming almost automatic, with the preregistration for teens when they get their driver’s license. We're going to continue with these drives for the foreseeable future, but we're going to have to reevaluate that at some point. But at least we can answer questions when we are doing a registration drive.”

“With the passage of Prop 2, people have nine days of early voting for statewide and federal elections, and no-excuse absentee voting has been in effect for quite some time. And now there's the permanent absentee ballot list. So there are so many ways that people can vote now in Michigan. It is definitely easier than ever. Now, it’s just a matter of making sure that people know that there is an election coming up and what's on the ballot.”

At the presentation at LAUP, staffers from the clerk's office will bring actual voting equipment, allowing those who have not voted before and who might be intimidated to go through every step of the polling place process.  

“Hopefully we can get people comfortable with voting,” Edwards said, “because it can be intimidating if you haven't done it before.”
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