House meeting toolkit | International women's day: March 8, 2018
Voting access in the East Bay
To honor International Women’s Day in this midterm election year, we’re encouraging all members of the Women’s March Oakland community to host house meetings on March 8 to talk about voting access in the East Bay. House meetings are gatherings where you invite family and friends to discuss issues that are important to you.
This toolkit walks you through what you need to start the conversation, including resources for further information. Feel free to customize the agenda, tailoring it to your guests and how much they may already know. Sign up to host a meeting to receive additional materials and updates. If you have any questions, email email@example.com.
How to plan a successful house meeting
- Now: Invite 10-15 people to discuss voting barriers in the East Bay. Make an effort to include people with a broad range of perspectives. Decide whether phone calls, texts or emails will work best. Ask for solid RSVPs. A sample invitation is included in Appendix A. Don't forget to use our social media kit (Appendix B) to share your action and inspire your friends and family to host house meetings of their own!
- Monday, March 5: Make a plan to feed everyone. When we eat together, we feel more at home and open to hearing new ideas. Will you serve dinner, provide snacks, host a potluck, or do something else? Are there any dietary restrictions to consider?
- Tuesday, March 6: Send your guests a reminder and follow up with anyone who has not confirmed. This will give you an accurate headcount for seating and food.
- Wednesday, March 7: Get your meeting space ready. Where do you have room in your home to host everyone comfortably? Be sure to arrange seating in a way that facilitates discussion (typically a circle). Notify guests about the accessibility of your home: do you have any stairs, pets, scents, etc. that your guests should be aware of?
You may want to ask people to arrive 15-20 minutes early so they can catch up and grab a bite to eat before the discussion starts. Let them know you’ll be starting soon and ask them to fill out the sign-in sheet (see Appendix C).
Welcome (10 minutes)
Welcome everyone to your home. Briefly introduce yourself and why you’re passionate about voting access. Have guests introduce themselves and share why they care about this issue.
Discussion (~30 minutes)
This is when you'll talk about the voting barriers facing East Bay communities. Remember, you don't have to have all the answers: the goal is to create a space for questioning, learning and empathy, and to provide resources for those interested in further reading.
You may want to start by asking if people know when the two key California elections are taking place in 2018:
- June 5: Statewide Direct Primary Election
- November 6: General Election
Remind everyone to make sure they’re registered to vote. Those who aren't can register onine or text P2P to RTVOTE (788-683). Be sure to mention that eligible California youth between the ages of 16 and 17 can pre-register. Have people take a minute to think about their plans for voting. Will they complete their ballots by mail or in person? What time will they vote (and who will watch their kids, when can they take off from work, etc.)?
Now discuss things that could prevent others from voting and how you and your guests may be able to help. For example, Alameda County requires additional postage to return vote-by-mail ballots, which may be too costly or inconvenient for some eligible voters. It may be helpful to jumpstart the conversation by presenting one or more of the potential obstacles included in Appendix D.
Ask participants to consider how they would help a friend or family member who faced these challenges, and what changes would need to be made at the local, state and federal levels to remove these barriers. Encourage everyone to think of concrete actions they can take in the next few months to improve voting access in their communities.
Wrap-up (10 minutes)
Ask participants what they learned, no matter how big or small, and if they have any feedback on the meeting materials or format. Please take notes—we’d love to know what worked and what didn’t—and remind your guests to complete the sign-in sheet to receive updates on next steps. Share the resources included in Appendix E with people who are interested.
After the meeting, please send your sign-in sheet and any feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org as soon as possible to help us plan future house meetings.
We encourage you to stay in touch with your guests to continue the conversation and mobilize for future actions. Women's March Oakland will be working to remove voting barriers in the East Bay throughout 2018, and we’re counting on your help to make these efforts successful.
Thank you for joining us in raising awareness of voting obstacles in the East Bay!
We look forward to continuing the fight to vote together.
Sample email invitation
In honor of International Women’s Day, I’m hosting a house meeting this Thursday to discuss voting access here in the East Bay. 2018 is a crucial election year and we need to make our votes heard. We’ll talk about the upcoming elections, voting barriers facing our communities, and how we can fight to remove them.
Thursday, March 8
[Include accessibility information for your guests here]
What to bring: a dish to share
Please let me know by Tuesday if you can attend. I look forward to seeing you soon!
Social media kit
What are you doing on #IWD2018? I’m hosting a @WomensMarchOak house meeting to improve voting access in the East Bay. Want to join the #FightToVote? Sign up to host: ow.ly/r1ta30iKyIc.
Sign up today to join me and others hosting @WomensMarchOak house meetings in the East Bay on #IWD2018 to improve voting access in our communities: ow.ly/r1ta30iKyIc. #FightToVote
House meeting sign-in sheet
Sample voting barriers in the East Bay
Homelessness is an urgent issue in Alameda County. According to a recent KQED article, Alameda County counted 5,629 homeless citizens in January 2017. While people are not required to show ID at the polls in California, there are other voting obstacles facing the homeless community. During the time it takes to vote, what happens to personal belongings that can’t be secured or brought to the site? Consider your own polling place. Is it within walking distance? If not, how much does it cost to get there?
A major barrier to voting is language accessibility. Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act requires certain jurisdictions with a concentration of people with limited English proficiency, including Alameda County, to provide bilingual voting resources. Yet sufficient resources may not be available, and voters often don’t know they have the right to this assistance. According to Christopher Punongbayan, Deputy Director at the Asian Law Caucus, in November 2010 in Alameda County, “there were not an adequate number of bilingual election officials present at the polls. At one polling site, the worker told the voters to come back later because there weren’t enough bilingual poll workers available. So basically the voters were refused their right to wait in line, to get their ballot.” Have you seen bilingual ballots at your polling site? Have you noticed bilingual poll workers, and are they representative of the primary languages in your community?
Making a polling place accessible for all doesn’t just mean holding it in a stair-free location. The space should also be free from fragrances, provide adequate seating and space for wheelchairs, and display clearly marked signs noting accessible pathways, for example. A report released by the United States Government Accountability Office found that 60% of a sampling of polling places across the country had potential impediments for people with disabilities during early in-person voting and on Election Day 2016. Think about polling places you’ve visited. How do they provide access and space for people with disabilities? What are actions you can take to make these sites more accessible?
Additional resources on voting access
Voting Rights Barriers & Discrimination in Twenty-First Century California: 2000-2013, Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area
Protecting Equal Access in a Diverse Democracy: Voting Rights in the Golden State, National Commission on Voting Rights
Yes, You Can Vote If You Are Homeless, The California Report, KQED
“You Don’t Need a Home to Vote” Voting Rights: Registration Manual, The National Coalition for the Homeless
California’s Compliance in 2016 with Federal and State Law: Language Access Requirements, Asian Americans Advancing Justice
Voices of Democracy: The State of Language Access in California’s November 2016 Elections, Asian Americans Advancing Justice
California voters who don’t speak English will get more help in 2018, LA Times
Voters with Disabilities: Observations on Polling Place Accessibility and Related Federal Guidance, United States Government Accountability Office
VAACs: How Voters with Disabilities Can Make Elections More Accessible, Disability Rights California