Branch of 100-year-old group gears up for 2020
Not long after Rachel Poller and her husband Peter Zimring left big-city life in the Northeast for the small-town charm and mountain beauty of Hendersonville, in 2013, the newly retired educator — who spent 25 years in the Camden, NJ, City Schools bilingual department — went in search of volunteer work. She eventually ended up at the League of Women Voters of Henderson County, where she first did ESL tutoring, then joined the Board, and, in June 2019, assumed a two-year term as president. “Our local league is entirely volunteer, with incredibly devoted, talented, wonderful people,” she says. “I wake up every day looking forward to doing the work we do.”
How does the LWVHC align with the national League of Women Voters?
The National League was founded in 1920, the year women gained the right to vote; the Henderson County League was founded in 1963 and is one of more than 700 local chapters in all 50 states. We all share the national mission: “Empowering Voters. Defending Democracy.”
What is the LWVHC’s primary focus?
Voter education and advocacy. We are strictly nonpartisan, and we never support or endorse parties or candidates. We do have positions on issues like immigration reform, health care, the environment, voter access, and voting suppression. What we’re all about is providing community members and voters with information about issues and where candidates running for office stand on issues.
How does LWVHC work to achieve their goals?
We depend heavily on the interests and initiatives of our members to make things happen. We have 16 committees and teams covering everything from communications to the observer team — people who observe school-board, county-commissioner, and city-council meetings. It helps hold them accountable.
How does an election year affect the work of those committees?
Far and away the most active committee right now is Voter Services, which includes organizing voter-registration events and hosting candidate forums and developing and publishing nonpartisan voter guides through “Voter411” on our website —FAQs for voting in elections and links to voting resources. As of Sept. 1, we hosted over 20 outdoor voter-registration events, with many more planned. We have a huge team of trained voter-services volunteers who turn on a dime to be anywhere we’re invited.
How do you get young, first-time voters engaged?
We have nurtured a wonderful relationship with Henderson County Public Schools. We provide a curriculum for teachers with four grade-appropriate power points for K-2nd, 3rd – 5th, 6th-8th, and high school about democracy, participation, and voting. At the end of each is a ballot for students to have a mock election. We also do voter-registration drives in the high schools, and this year we launched a 2020 Short Video (two minutes) contest about voting for high-school students, with cash prizes.
What is your advice for participating in the 2020 election?
Go to our website and click on “Election 2020” to find nonpartisan voter information. If you’re able, be a local hero and sign up to be a poll worker. Make a voting plan that works for you — absentee or in-person early voting or election day. The most important thing is to vote.