Countering Lancaster County Commissioner’s Attack on Nonpartisan Voter Registration Initiative [column] | Local voices

On July 26, at the Lancaster County Board of Commissioners’ business session and again the following day at the council’s open meeting, Republican Commissioner Josh Parsons discussed his decision not to support the renewal of a county contract for family services with YWCA Lancaster.

One of the reasons he cited was the YWCA’s voter registration initiative, Lancaster Votes, which he said was “essentially a partisan operation to get the vote.”

Let’s set the clocks straight.

YWCA USA advocates for voter education and voter registration through incitement-to-vote practices. This is a long-standing mission for the Women’s Y. You can find details of his outreach initiative on his website (bit.ly/YWCAvote). The nonpartisan voter education and registration efforts of Lancaster Votes, administered by the YWCA of Lancaster, have historical precedent and are not an anomaly. It aligns with both local and national YWCA missions.

Christa Miller, chief clerk/chief registrar of the Lancaster County Voter Registration and Elections Office, said her office was unable to offer registration services due to resources. limited. Lancaster Votes fills a void in county voter education.

Twenty-eight Original Member Organizations worked to oversee the scope of the local initiative in 2020. The Lancaster County Republican Committee was invited to join by YWCA Lancaster leadership and one of the co-authors of this chronic. The committee did not respond to these invitations.

We both joined Lancaster Votes as volunteers in July 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Many operational changes had to be made to accommodate rapidly changing circumstances. The LancVotes.org The website was created to help county residents securely access up-to-date information. We used QR codes at registration events to allow voters to access online registration and other voter information, while practicing safe social distancing.

Documentation was created that provided registration QR codes and detailed voter information in English and Spanish. The posters were designed to be displayed in storefronts and stores to take advantage of foot traffic. Local artists were commissioned to create works to engage audiences and encourage participation. Videos promoting voter registration were posted on social media. All materials and information made available to county residents were specifically non-partisan.

Lancaster Votes has become a trusted source for clear and accurate election information.

Randall O. Wenger, Miller’s predecessor as County Elections Officer, provided us with an update on the election law changes at a meeting in 2020. Miller also made herself available to update us. knowledgeable about election law and procedures, and she spoke in support of our work at a volunteer recognition event (Miller did not respond to an opinion email from LNP | LancasterOnline seeking to confirm this ). The professionalism and assistance of Wenger and Miller, as well as that of their staff, has always been appreciated.

Since the summer of 2020, we have helped plan and execute over 250 pandemic safe outreach and registration event teams, as well as coordinate training sessions for volunteers and member organizations . As a group, we have completed over 200 hours of community service through organizing and management, as well as over 450 volunteer hours distributing literature and public events throughout the county.

Volunteers were approached with questions and requests related to voter registration and requesting mail-in ballots; We’ve been asked by a large portion of our community to provide clarification on dropbox availability and more. We each have registered voters of various stripes, and other volunteers have reported the same. It is estimated that Lancaster Votes likely registered several hundred Lancaster County residents in 2020 alone and provided voter education to hundreds more.

The non-partisan position of Lancaster Votes was made clear to us by YWCA Lancaster management and staff at every meeting. In turn, we and our colleagues insist on the same in every meeting, in every training session and in every public event that we organize. In fact, we have friends who won’t volunteer for Lancaster Votes specifically because of our dedication to fairness. It should be noted that our volunteer force of over 150 people included Republicans, Independents and Democrats with a wide variety of viewpoints.

We continue to volunteer with Lancaster Votes with pride in our commitment to providing reliable voter education, up-to-date information and nonpartisan registration opportunities as a service to everyone in the county.

The allegation that Lancaster Votes and YWCA Lancaster are partisan is not supported by the facts. We invite any organization or individual interested in non-partisan voter education to join us.

Kate Ahmann and Paula Koda are part of a local citizen group called Bold Action Works, which seeks to inform, engage and activate the public on issues important to the community. Ahmann is a small business owner who lives and works in the city of Lancaster. Koda is a retired telecommunications professional and resident of Lancaster Township; she is married to Democratic County Commissioner John Trescot.

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