Tuesday, August 21, 2018

It's Time to Chalk the Vote!

Runoff elections are in one week. Both the Democrat and Republican tickets have races for House, Senate, and state races. Libertarians have a runoff for the office of governor, and,  Independents, remember you are welcome to vote in the Democrat's runoff.

I have harped on elections and voting before on my blog.  I've pointed out that teachers are sometimes our worst enemy when it comes to voting, and voting for #oklaed. I may have used the term "shooting ourselves in the foot." I've pointed out the dismal numbers for teachers: former State Senator John Sparks told me 30% of teachers vote. The former Superintendent of Schools, and no fan of teachers, Janet Barresi, DDS, put the number closer to 18%. Former State Representative and governor candidate, and my friend Joe Dorman, says about 1 in 6 teachers are registered to vote, and vote.

Joe, as Chief Executive Officer of Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy, is fulfilling a dream to serve the children of our state, and to be a catalyst for educators to hold themselves and each other accountable on election day. He and I have talked about Chalk the Vote, a 'get out the vote' initiative aimed at teachers, since his own race for governor. Now we both have time to devote to this effort, and Tuesday the 28th is our first test. Can we encourage teachers to support each other's efforts to go to the polls? I hope so.

I hope we will continue the energy of our Chalk the Vote Meet-up at the Capitol during the second week of the Walk Out in April. It was cool and windy, but the enthusiasm was infectious. We were working together for a positive goal. We met old friends and made new friends as Joe spoke into a bullhorn, sharing his vision of educators working together in a totally nonpartisan way to brainstorm ideas for making it easier for teachers to vote.

We have a FaceBook page, and teachers have volunteered to be Block Captains, being the point person at their school to share voting information...NOT WHOM to vote for, just HOW and WHEN and WHY to vote. We share resources, including the Oklahoma Election Board website, where you can see a sample ballot for the runoff, and check your voting precinct. We all have strong opinions, and I'm hoping that teachers saw first-hand which candidates were supportive and have earned their votes. Chalk The Vote is about getting us to the polls.

I was a teacher. I know what it's like to teach all day on a Tuesday, drive home, and then remember that it's election day. I know how hard it is to stay informed and feel like your votes reflect the attention you've paid to races. I know.

I know it's hard to stay informed as a teacher...our days and nights and weekends are filled with planning and grading, and family and children. So, Chalk the Vote is trying to be a clearing house of information on how and where to vote.

On our FB page, we've talked about mail-in voting...which requires notarization. We've talked about early voting in each county the Thursday, Friday and Saturday morning before election day. We've talked about strategies to help teachers slip out, as is legal, and vote while their classes are covered by subs or by colleagues. We've talked about having tables for voter registration at parent nights, and having forms in the teacher's lounges. We've talked about the deadlines for registering and requesting mail-in ballots. Our page has been a safe place for us to put aside our partisanship (and everyone KNOWS I'm partisan), to just celebrate our right to vote.

We are working on extending the concept of teacher support to parents and to high school students. Talks with PTA parents are beginning, and we are beginning to reach out to student civics groups to replicate our support system.

We want to inspire all citizens to fully participate in the electoral process. To proudly proclaim that we've voted. To wear those stickers proudly, to be a model for our students and our children of an active, interested citizen.

Chalk the Vote is actively seeking ideas for how to make voting easier for busy educators, parents, and students. We want to hear your thoughts.

There are plenty of places to learn about candidates. Social media is one. Connecting with candidates on FaceBook or Twitter can give you a sense of their issues and views. Attending community forums is another way to see and hear candidates in action. Several groups online have lists of recommended candidates and ones to avoid. I'm not going to tell you how to vote, but I hope if you're my friend, you are a voter, and #oklaed is a priority. Some candidates have stronger credibility with the education world than others. That's for you to learn about the candidates you'll be voting for.

After the runoff, and once we have a full slate of candidates for office, I'm hoping you'll find candidates you can support...donate time and money to. Put out a yard sign, share positive news about your candidates. Knock doors, attend fundraisers, write checks. Knock doors. Be vocal about whom you support and why. Talk to neighbors and family. Share why these candidates have earned your support.

And vote. And help friends to vote. And support colleagues as they vote. And stand a little taller, knowing you've done your part to make our state the best it can be.

So...Chalk the Vote. Join us.

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