SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Local elections are less than three weeks away and the Informed Voter Coalition, comprised of nine local organizations, is working to inform Springfield voters about the races they will see on the ballot.
The nonpartisan group’s goal is to get more people to vote, but also be informed when they do it.
Lisa Langley with the League of Women Voters of Southwest Missouri is the founder of the coalition. She says their mission falls in line with the League’s which is to engage, excite and educate citizens to increase voter participation.
“It is truly community-driven,” she said. “It’s a community effort.”
In addition to the League, other locals groups involved are Be Civil Be Heard, Drury University’s L.E. Meador Center for Politics & Citizenship, the Junior League of Springfield, KSMU Ozarks Public Radio, Leadership Springfield, Missouri State University’s Office of Public Affairs, NAACP Springfield, Ozarks Technical Community College’s Social Sciences Department, Springfield-Greene County Library District, and the Springfield News-Leader.
The group comes up with questions, some sent in by each organization’s members, to ask each candidate, and make that information available online to voters. The coalition used to hold forums in person but has moved to record interviews with candidates that are now pushed out on online platforms in hopes to reach more people in a more convenient way. For the 2022 November elections, Langley said their video interviews with candidates reached 40,000 people.
For the April 4 elections, coalition members interviewed each candidate running for Springfield mayor, city council, and school board.
“Local elected officials, they’re the people you see at the coffee shop. They’re the people you see out and about,” Langley said. “They’re the ones that make the decision of whether the pothole gets fixed in your neighborhood or sidewalks or put in.”
The goal is to empower people with the knowledge they need to make an informed decision at the polls, and get more people engaged in local elections.
“I always clutch my pearls when someone says ‘I only vote in the presidential elections.’ I always tell people ‘oh my gosh, the decisions that your local elected officials make, they more directly affect you on a daily basis than a presidential election’,” Langley said.
Politically Active, a student group at OTC that is also a part of the Informed Voter Coalition, led by political science instructor Cara Griffin, is addressing that issue on campus.
“We start to give [students] a reason to care,” Griffin said. “Your sales tax, when you buy something, where does that money go? How is our government benefiting or how are you benefiting from that? We try to create an environment where they become curious, and do so in a nonpartisan way.”
Griffin says the group has grown over time and has had up to 45 students attending meetings. This is a good sign for advocates who want everyone impacted by decisions being made to have a say on who gets to make them.
Politically Active is once again hosting candidates on campus this year. Springfield Votes 2023 will be next Thursday, March 22 at 5:30 p.m. at Lincoln Hall, 211.
All 14 candidates on the ballot from Springfield will be present. You can meet mayoral candidates, city council, and school board candidates.
The Informed Voter Coalition will release their interviews with the candidates for the April 4 local elections starting on March 21. You can listen to the interviews starting at noon Tuesday, March 21 at KSMU Ozarks Public Radio (91.1 FM) and a video version can be found on the KSMU website.