Voter Registration Week in County Clare
How did this idea come about?
It really all started back in April 2004, when the Community Development Officer in Clare County Development Board offered the public an opportunity to train in Active Citizenship Education by the Vincentian Partnership for Social Justice.
Two people from Clare Adult Basic Education Service attended along with a much larger group and found the two days very empowering. The training cleared the fog around how to work out a structure around politics and elections. For example: What do I want for myself, my family and my community and for Ireland as a whole, and how this can be matched with what is on offer when election time comes around. It is non-party political and enjoyable.
Registering to vote is a first step, there are many silent voices in Clare and all over Ireland. Many people do not vote and as a result families and communities lose out. Every time you vote you stand up for yourself and what is important to you, your family, your community and your country.
Because we felt so strong about how good the training was, we encouraged others to learn. We firstly trained our own peers within Adult Education, and then offered students within the adult education service training. Everyone is very pleased with what they learn, they find it very useful and relevant to their lives. The training consists of a pack which is 15% delivery and 85% active participation, so it is fun and interesting and people have ownership of the sessions.
Who is involved in the Clare Active Citizenship Network?
Clare Adult Basic Education Service,
Community Development Officer, Clare Co. Council,
Clarecare Social Services are very active members.
While the Franchise Section, Clare County Council,
Men’s Education Network,
County Clare Libraries,
Citizen Information Service support it.
What supports are there for students who might have a problem filling out the Registering to Vote Form?
Being unable to read or write well can cause a person to avoid doing something like registering to vote, which we all have a right to do. It’s very important that everyone has their say when elections happen.Clare Adult Basic Education Service can offer free and confidential support for anyone who has problems filling out the form. We can meet and offer a trained volunteer tutor who will work with the person.
Why Voter Registration Week?
This week came about as a step on from using the training pack. A group of interested people from a wide variety of backgrounds felt we should highlight the need to get registered to vote. If a person is not registered they can’t vote. It gets more difficult to register if you leave it until after the 1st November, when you need to get a Guard to sign the form. So get a form from the Library or Citizens Information Centre and fill out the form as soon as you can.
What happened during the week?
We had a number of things happening:
We were very grateful to Clare FM for the opportunity to promote what we were doing on local radio. We had some articles and photographs prepared for the local papers, some got published.
About 80 display packs using photographs and quotes from the Active Citizenship Voter Education Programme were delivered around the County, through the Clare Lifelong Learning Networks. These were displayed in Community Development Programmes, Family Resource Centres, Adult Education Centres, as well as Libraries throughout the County. There was information on these about who might vote in which election, as well as helpful hints on filling out the form.
Tutors working in adult education centres were asked to do a session with each group on some aspect of Getting Registered to Vote, perhaps in a Computer Class checking if students names are on the register by going online.
What will be the next step?
When the group met to review the ‘Getting Registered to Vote’ week, we all felt strongly that it was too early to stop the promotion. There is a real need particularly at this time to double check that everyone is registered, especially those who did not return the registration forms if they were put through the letterbox.
We have continued to promote voter registration using the Citizens Information Slot on local radio. Displays are still up in various centres. We got another mention in the local paper after some encouragement. The message to register was put into local newsletters in towns that had these. A copy of the first draft of electors was brought into the Ennis Adult Education Centre, where students and staff could see if their names were included.
After the first week feedback included:
One man rang from England immediately after the radio slot, he is moving home to Clare at Christmas time. He wanted to know how to get registered to vote when living abroad. International students in the centre were very keen to read the information on the display. Some took notes down from the display and found it very useful. The photographs used from the Active Citizenship Voter Education Programme attracted a lot of attention from the general public. FETAC external examiners even asked for copies of the display to bring back to their own adult education centres around Ireland.
Our next step
The group in Clare is planning to do a follow on in the new year, before the next general election on ‘How to use your vote wisely’.