Vet The Vote: How Veterans are Choosing to Serve their Country, Again

Vet The Vote: How Veterans are Choosing to Serve their Country, Again

Vet The Vote: How Veterans and Families are Choosing to Serve their Country, Again

First Amendment Voice recently partnered with Vet The Vote and nearly twenty other organizations—including the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, NFL, National Military Family Association, and Student Veterans of America, to name a few. We were inspired to join this coalition for two key reasons: 1) to preserve fair and peaceful elections in the U.S. in the 2022 midterms and beyond, and 2) to continue showcasing the enormous impact that veterans and their families have on American democratic institutions and processes. 

What is Vet The Vote?

Vet The Vote is a project of the We the Veterans Foundation and in 2022, the goal is to recruit over 100,000 veterans and their family members to serve as poll workers for the upcoming midterm elections. This is absolutely critical, since more than 130,000 poll workers have stopped serving over the past three midterm elections and 68% of election officials across the U.S. found it challenging to secure enough poll workers in the 2018 midterm elections. Furthermore, the Pew Research Center reported that 58% of poll workers during the 2018 elections were 61+ years of age.

What all of this means is that our democracy is more at risk than we might think. Poll workers are essential to maintaining fair and free elections. Some of the many responsibilities they fulfill include:

  • Checking in and assisting voters with any questions or concerns they may have
  • Ensuring there are adequate supplies for all voters, as well as accommodations for disabled voters (e.g., page magnifiers, wheelchair ramps)
  • Processing absentee ballots
  • Maintaining voter privacy
  • Requesting the removal of disruptive poll observers

 

In polling places with too few workers, there could be excessively long lines (which could turn people away from voting entirely) or even lead to the shutdown of the polling place in the event of a severe short-staffing issue. 

Short-staffed polling places are problematic for urban and rural voters alike. In populous urban areas, the wait time may be longer than the time remaining to vote before the poll closes, especially later in the day when many people go to vote after work. In less-populated rural areas, some people may need to drive for miles just to access a polling place, which can disproportionately impact low-income voters who may have limited means of transportation.

With these troubling consequences in mind, what better way to ensure the right to vote is protected than having veterans serve as poll workers? The vast majority of veterans have already served in nonpartisan ways and understand the importance of service in their communities. Maintaining the security and integrity of our elections now and in the future has never been more important, and American veterans are well-equipped for this task. You can support Vet The Vote by signing up to be a poll worker or donating to We the Veterans Foundation.

2022 National Symposium Panel on Veterans

Additionally, we have a programming scheduled for our 2022 National Symposium in September on the role of veterans in civic engagement. Will you be in the Philadelphia area on September 24th? Please consider joining us at the National Constitution Center. Register here 

In addition to our partnership with Vet The Vote, First Amendment Voice also had an outstanding panel on the role of veterans in depolarization during our 2021 National Symposium. You can listen to the full panel on our YouTube page here.

FAV is launching a new series on our YouTube channel exploring the difference between civics and politics and our role as a civic organization. Watch our latest video in the series in which our executive director discusses our partnership with Vet The Vote as an example of civic engagement in action.

Want to Get More Involved in Your Community? Start with These Volunteering Resources

Want to Get More Involved in Your Community? Start with These Volunteering Resources

We know there are many research-backed benefits to volunteering, but it can be challenging to find new ways to get more involved in our communities while balancing other personal and professional obligations. In the spirit of our upcoming Edward D. Lowry Memorial Award for Citizenship ceremony, this blog post will review some awesome resources for volunteers – and we invite you to share some of your favorite resources in the comments section below!   

Where to Find New Volunteer Opportunities 

City or County Websites: Many local government websites around the U.S. include designated sections for civic engagement opportunities.  

VolunteerMatch: Over 135,000 nonprofit organizations use the VolunteerMatch portal to recruit participants for both in-person and virtual volunteering opportunities. Since the platform was founded in 1998, it has connected more than 16 million people to volunteer gigs around the world. You can find a wide variety of volunteer options on VolunteerMatch’s website by searching for either specific causes to support or skills you can offer in a voluntary role. 

Volunteers of America: This nonprofit organization was founded in 1896 for the purpose of helping vulnerable citizens access basic living necessities like housing and healthcare. Today, more than 60,000 volunteers support the organization’s human service programs in more than 400 communities across the U.S. You can get involved by contacting a local VOA office or volunteering at one of their senior living and care communities. 

Volunteer.gov: Also known as “America’s Natural and Cultural Resources Volunteer Portal,” Volunteer.gov was established by the Bush Administration in 2002 and continues to be a fantastic resource for people seeking local, state and national volunteer opportunities. 

Valuable Readings About Volunteerism 

  • University of Kansas Community Toolbox: 

Inspiring TED Talks About Volunteering 

Lowry Award for Citizenship Recognizes Outstanding Volunteers 

The Edward D. Lowry Memorial Award for Citizenship recognizes the work of nonpartisan volunteers bridging divisions within their communities to promote the public good. Get ready to learn more about the positive work going on in countless communities across the country as FAV lifts up amazing community leaders and civic entrepreneurs who exemplify the following qualities: 

  • Relentless service to others 
  • Able to work across ideological differences for the common good 
  • Fearless advocate of the First Amendment principles 
  • Overcomes setbacks; strives on in the face of adversity 
  • Exhibits strategic thinking but able to translate that into results 
  • Inspirational: encourages others to give of time, talent or resources 
  • Consummate networking to connect organizations & people for community impact 

Nominations are due by March 15th to info@firstamendmentvoice.org with email title “2022 FAV Lowry Award Nomination.” You can also submit a nomination using the form linked on our home page. Learn more about the Lowry Award on our YouTube page! 

Our Opportunity to Move Forward Together

Our Opportunity to Move Forward Together

By Councilmember Chris Duncan

Reprinted with permission from Chris Duncan. This article originally was printed in San Clemente Times, (March 4, 2021).

Our natural instinct in these times is to find like-minded souls to take us in, assuage our self-doubt, and tell us the “other side” is the source of our inner turmoil.

In coffee meetings, YouTube chats, and Facebook groups, the urge is strong to sort ourselves into competing factions, all bent on protecting “us” from “them” by denigrating those who see things differently.

Fear and frustration manifest as grievance against a mythical “they” who have gained from our side’s loss. Like a drowning swimmer off Lost Winds, we pull each other under to save ourselves.

This animosity, while comforting in the short run, is not the answer. We San Clemente residents will not, and should not, agree on everything. Vigorous debate results in a better functioning democracy, because the best ideas will withstand the toughest scrutiny.

But while we may disagree with our fellow citizens on the issues, we must not assign them evil intent. That is easier said than done, especially right now. National news outlets and social media companies, which profit off our divisions, tell us the stories we want to hear, not those we need to hear, and relentlessly demonize the “opposition.”

Your neighbor is not your enemy, but it is easy to believe he or she is. I know, because I am as susceptible to making rash personal judgments as the next person. It feels soothing for an instant to vilify someone who thinks differently, or worse, label them a bad person. But personal attacks only make us feel more bitter and alone, and in the long run, corrode our public discourse.

 It doesn’t have to be this way. Each of us is responsible for changing the narrative. Our future generations are counting on us to make decisions today that will enhance our city’s prospects, not drive a wedge through it.

If we acknowledge that our own insecurities are often the source of our unease, we can avoid trying to find faults in others to make ourselves feel better. Through this acceptance, we can lift the invisible walls that separate us and come together to achieve the goals we share.

I believe we are in a unique position to make this happen. As tragic as COVID-19 has been, it has forced us to unify around beneficial practices we previously overlooked, like dining outdoors, enjoying our beautiful environment, and being more present for our kids.

As we emerge together from the pandemic, having defeated the virus and preserved our way of life through our collective diligence and mutual goodwill, we have an unprecedented opportunity to leverage this unity to tackle other challenges that seemed out of reach.

Stopping the toll road, saving our beaches, ending homelessness in town. These are all possible if we direct our energy toward solving the problem instead of endlessly critiquing fellow problem-solvers.

But this opportunity is fleeting. If we do not act now, it will pass us by. And a year from now, when things are back to normal, we may forget what is possible if we act in unison.

San Clemente is an extraordinary town, but I am convinced our best days are ahead of us. It is up to each and every one of us, including the five us on the city council, to release the baggage of contempt and blame, appeal to the better angels of our nature, and replace character smears with substantive, fact-driven discussion. Only then will our Spanish Village reach its full potential.

Chris Duncan is a San Clemente city councilmember who was elected in 2020.

First Amendment Voice Statement on Post-election Political Violence

January 15, 2021

SAN CLEMENTE, CA — First Amendment Voice stands with the many voices raised against the political violence at the Capitol building and other areas around the country on January 6th. While we steadfastly champion freedoms of expression, assembly and the ability to petition the government for grievance, we denounce those who would use violence as a weapon against the pillars of democracy due to an election outcome. As the Joint Chiefs of Staff recently announced, “We witnessed actions inside the Capitol building that were inconsistent with the rule of law. The rights of freedom of speech and assembly do not give anyone the right to resort to violence, sedition and insurrection.” The rioters, due to ignorance, arrogance, or some combination, have endangered the very rights they professed to defend. The First Amendment allows citizens to express themselves, assemble and petition the government for grievance. It does not afford the right to push through barricades, loot and destroy property, or endanger the lives of others. 

We mourn the loss of life, including police officers in the line of duty and others, due to violence and call on leaders to settle grievances at the ballot box and through legal means. The country faces myriad health and economic challenges without need for self-inflicted losses from illegal mob actions. 

We celebrate the thousands of heroes across the country who monitored the election, volunteered at the polls, served in the courts during legal challenges, and many other civic functions. These unsung citizens stepped forward during an international health crisis, despite the risks, to play their role in shepherding our democratic processes. Civic engagement is daily work, not something that occurs only  during elections. Thank you for leading by example.

We express gratitude to our elected leaders, military, first responders, and countless others involved in safeguarding our democratic process and our citizens. Stay resilient and keep moving our country inexorably toward the aspirations outlined in the Constitution. 

First Amendment Voice (FAV) is a non-profit, nonpartisan movement created to bring awareness, provide education and promote advocacy for citizens to exercise their First Amendment freedoms of religion, expression, press, assembly, and petition while encouraging citizens to understand, protect, and exercise those rights through ongoing programs and partnerships. Our board consists of veterans, lawyers, clergy, different ethnicities, genders, faiths, and three different generations.

Learn more about FAV at www.firstamendmentvoice.org. Subscribe to our free newsletter or YouTube channel to see previous programming. Inquire to info@firstamendmentvoice.org 

Citizenship is not a spectator sport!

Did you Vote?

Did you Vote?

Citizens,

Have you had a chance to vote yet? If you haven’t, we encourage you to make a plan that meets your own health concerns and also takes into account the information you need to make informed decisions. Many citizens make one of the most important forms of expression, voting, with incomplete information. Ensure you have a plan, given virus restrictions that have impacted the mail system and normal polling stations. Vote early if you can. Check with organizations like Vote.org to get your state level information on whether early voting is allowed, whether drop boxes allow you to avoid sending ballots through the mail, polling locations and other details.

Are you a California voter, wondering about all of the different propositions on the ballot? Check out this LA Times video overview. It provides the various (12) propositions, pros and cons, along with whose for it and against it in about one minute or less per measure.

Voting in San Clemente? Check out FAV’s two different videos on the Candidate Forums co-sponsored with the Chamber of Commerce for the 2 Year seat and 4 Year seats. Learn about your candidates before casting your ballot.

If you have voted, check out some of FAV blogs that help you think about civic engagement beyond election time. Find our most recent one here and one on invitational communication here.

Citizenship is not a spectator sport!

Steve & the FAV Team