League Of Women Voters Unveils New Weapon: Smartphones

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If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.

The League of Women Voters of the Hamptons is doing just that, fighting their sworn enemy—low voter turnout—once again, but this time with newfangled weapons of mass dissemination: smartphones.

“How do a bunch of women who are 50 and above reach a younger audience?” Judi Roth, a former League of Women Voters of the Hamptons president, current board member and chairwoman of the organization’s Education Committee, asked rhetorically. “Voting is a right that has been fought for over the past few decades by a number of disenfranchised groups. We see it as a shame that 100 percent of those eligible don’t take advantage of their right to do so.

“So, we started brainstorming, and one of our members, Ursula Lynch, joked, ‘The only way to reach kids these days is on an iPhone,’” she said. “It kind of clicked for us.”

Up until October 15, the Hamptons chapter of the League is accepting one-minute video entries from youngsters, ages 10 to 18, created on and submitted by a smartphone or tablet device, that can persuasively and concisely convey the importance of having the right to vote and actually casting a ballot.

The videos, which will be judged on the basis of creativity, pertinence, humor, youth orientation and non-partisanship, Ms. Roth explained, will be presented to a three-person media panel. The creators of the winning videos from three age brackets will receive $100 in gift cards to local stores, and all entries are eligible for community service credit. They will also air on the East Hampton public access television station LTV.

According to the American Presidency Project, an academic website created in 1999 and dedicated to studying official documentation related to the presidency, prior to the turn of the 20th century, a turnout of 80 percent of eligible voters was common for presidential elections. Then, in a span of 24 years, voter participation dropped all the way to approximately 49 percent. In New York State alone, last year’s contentious presidential election drew only 46 percent of eligible voters.

In order to combat the precipitous drop, the League of Women Voters has strongly advocated for voter participation, a philosophy the group has embraced since its inception in 1920. Members have pursued that goal in a variety of ways, by hosting public meetings and spreading their message on fliers and advertisements, canvassing both radio and television.

Despite the barrage—be it from the League or from socialite Paris Hilton, who infamously sponsored the “Vote or Die” movement before failing to register herself—utilizing new trends has yielded very little at the polls, with totals peaking at 64 percent only once since 1944, the year President Franklin D. Roosevelt addressed the nation via radio and declared voting to be a “sacred obligation.” (The 64-percent threshold was hit in 1952.)

But Ms. Roth remains steadfast in her optimism, saying the smartphone—the next logical frontier to disseminate the organization’s important message—could be a game-changer.

“The project’s goals are twofold,” Ms. Roth said. “Kids making the videos will remember the message when it is time for them to vote. They’ll remember their enthusiasm about the issue. In addition, those close to the kids will see the enthusiasm and realize, ‘Hey, I better get out there to vote or I’m letting little Johnny down.’”

Ms. Roth, who said the “exciting and simple” first-year project will be introduced to schools in September, added that she hopes the quality of the submissions will inspire a longer documentary style video to be submitted to the Take 2 Documentary Film Festival, whose executive director, Jacqui LoFaro, will also serve as a judge in the League’s video contest. The other judges are Seth Redlus, who directs LTV, and Joseph Shaw, executive editor of the Press News Group.

To submit an entry, email education@lwvhamptons.org, or go to any local library and ask about the project.

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