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The First Vote Program is back in Session!

On Saturday, August 19th, 2023, Williamson County’s League of Women Voters began their season of the First Vote Program with a bang! They have also graciously invited Travis County, along with all other Texas counties to their first presentation training.

For those that do not know, the First Vote Program is a program originally developed by Travis County Voter Registration and the League of Women Voters. It has since been spread to many other Texas counties.

The First Vote Program informs students about:

  • Why they should vote

  • How to register to vote

  • How to prepare to vote

  • How to cast their ballot

During this presentation, VDRs will also register eligible students to vote!

This is an incredibly popular and successful program. And with the new school year officially underway, the League of Women Voters has trained a number of VDRs to become the next First Vote Program presenters.

I got to attend the first training with my fellow VDRs, and it was a blast! Williamson County hosted a hybrid training at the Clay Madsen Rec Center in Round Rock and over Zoom. So, it was great to see so many of my old VDR friends, as well as some new faces.

Immediately, the presenter - the Williamson County LWV president, Felicia Miyakawa - made everyone feel welcome and excited by hosting introductions. Everyone introduced themselves, the county they were from, and what made them passionate about voting. Everyone had a lot to say about voting, including a few people that came in all the way from Bell County!

A notable story shared was from our very own VDR Outreach and Training Coordinator, Meg Pettersson. She had a special story expressing how important programs like the First Vote Program are. When she was a senior in high school, her government teacher not only registered her and her classmates to vote, but for that years election, he took them to vote for the first time! That made her a lifeline voter, and voter advocate. And programs like this one can do the same for current and future generations.

From there, Miyakawa presented the First Vote Program as though we were students, along with Helen Cords, the WIlliamson County LWV First Vote Chair.

Everyone thoroughly enjoyed role-playing as students. In fact, Miyakawa asked the class, “Can anyone tell me what non-partisan means?” One of the participants raised their hand, and asked in a lighthearted tone, as though he himself were a student, “does that mean we can’t party?” This got a lot of laughs. However, while this style of training lent itself to a lot of fun, it also helped reinforce the importance of interacting with students, as opposed to simply presenting.

Along with a lot of fun, there was also a lot to learn in the training. Including the best way to relate to students.

“You don’t want to lecture students,” Miyakawa said during the training, after going through some statistics about how much younger generations vote, “you don’t want to wag your finger, and make them feel bad. Instead, you will want to encourage them! Show them how much their fellow students are voting, and get them excited!”

Also helping to host the Program was newly elected Vice President of the League of Women Voters Austin, Valerie DeBIll, as well as the new Travis County LWV First Vote Chair, Susana Carranza. Valerie DeBill primarily managed the Zoom trainees, making sure to answer their questions. There were also many other League of Women Voters Chairs, including Brenda Chlapek, Fundraising Chair for Williamson county LWV.

Plus, we had so many training participants, many of them from all over Central Texas, including the following counties:

  • Williamson

  • Travis

  • Bell

  • Hays

  • Comal

  • Galveston

  • Fort bend

Seeing so many League of Women Voter chairs and organizers, along with our full house of VDR participants, was truly uplifting. The League of Women Voters are getting into a serious groove for the First Vote Program not seen since before the pandemic. That combined with the unfettered enthusiasm of the participants, the future is looking bright for the First Vote Program, and the League of Women Voters as a whole.

The League of Women Voters will be hosting another in-person training soon, and we will also be sharing a training video within the next couple of weeks. So if you are interested in joining this great program, stay tuned!

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