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The 2013 Review

2013 is an off-year in the election cycle, supposedly a time when political organization can rest up for the upcoming year.  However, Forward Montana Foundation found itself no less busy than in 2012!  Going into the year, our motto was Bunny Back and Double Down.  So what exactly did we accomplish?  Well, here’s a snapshot of our successful year!

It all began in the spring semester.  We came in strong, adrenaline still running from 2012, and ready to take on the world.  We had a new executive director -Kayje Booker- the Underage Democracy Project (a high school internship program) still in its development stage, new Democratis Prime (leadership development coordinator) Lucy Peraino for the college students, and a host of other changes as we headed into the new year.
A technology levy campaign sign

A technology levy campaign sign

In the spring we took on the technology levy campaigns for Missoula, MT.  It was backed by many high school students and teachers who could see the desperate need for new technology in the schools. Although important for Missoula’s education system, the levies were projected to lose. Over the course of the spring we knocked 3,024 doors, and made 1,317 phone calls.  Through the new Underage Democracy Project, we engaged 4 high school interns in schools within Missoula and had over 40 high school volunteers who came out in support of the technology levies for their schools!  We even hosted a, open-to-the-public, informational First Friday Event: iLevy, iEducate, iVote.  So how did it end up?  Both levies passed by less than 2,000 votes meaning our efforts mattered for Missoula schools.

Pink bunnies out registering voters

Pink bunnies out registering voters

We moved into the summer with a victory at our backs, and the leadership development program held its first ever joint high school and college program.  Together, they hosted 3 Pink Bunny events helping us register a total of 2,005 new voters in Missoula! August quickly rolled around and the Underage Democracy Project got its first big break!  Debra Lombardi (the program coordinator) and two interns were invited to Helena to speak at a Civics Institute to teachers around the State about the importance of on-the-ground civic engagement and giving students a chance to have a voice before they have a vote.

Summer began to fade, school picked up again and voter registration boomed as new students arrived at their dorms.  The smell of another election cycle was in the air.
Staff members during Trick or Vote

Staff members during Trick or Vote

It was time again for the season of GOTV (that’s getting out the vote in organizer speak).  The end of October approached quickly, bringing with it the time for spooktacular affairs.  Ghouls and goblins roaming the streets alongside fairies and Macklemore’s and characters from The Wizard of Oz.  Some of these door knockers were surprisingly aged and when candy was brought their way, they asked, “Can I count on you to vote in the upcoming municipal election?”  It was Trick or Vote  one of Forward Montana Foundation’s largest events of the year.  We spanned across four Montana towns!  In Whitehall and Whitefish, groups were led by high school students and teachers.  In Bozeman we had 5 volunteers and knocked over 100 doors; and in Missoula we had over 80 volunteers, knocking a little over 3,000 doors!

Even with Trick or Vote being a great success, our work continued.  We spend the next week, up until the election on November 5th,  continuing our GOTV efforts by making thousands of call to registered voters reminding them to make their voice count.
All in all one can say it has been an exciting year for us.  In total, we knocked over 6,000 doors, a number to be proud of.  However, there is little time to reflect.  2014 is right around the corner bringing the fight for voting rights, new programs, and an ever-growing vigor for civic engagement.
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Trick or Vote to Scare Out the Youth Vote in 2012

This Halloween, Forward MT Foundation and hundreds of young Montanans will get decked out as ghosts and goblins—not for candy but for democracy. These Trick-or-Voters will go door-to-door to remind their peers to vote in the November election and then spend the night shaking their boooooooooooties for America. In cities across the nation, Trick or Vote offers youth a signature mix of epic costume parties and direct community service, with proven results.

Trick or Vote is the nation’s largest (and possibly only) costumed get-out-the-vote effort, led by local volunteers in cities across the country. This year more than 250 organizations in 41 states will be hosting Trick or Vote events. According to a study conducted by Yale University, knocking on doors can increase voter turnout by 8-12%, more than any other activity. Any grade-schooler can tell you that there is one night a year Americans expect a knock on their door: Halloween (which happens to fall just a few days before Election Day).

“It’s the best way on the best day” said Kayje Booker, “And it’s giving thousands of young people their first taste of delicious democracy.” One third of Trick or Vote participants surveyed in 2008 responded that it was their first volunteer experience. By tapping into the masked magic and mayhem of Halloween, Trick or Vote gives young people an easy entry into civic engagement. In 2010, FMF had 103 volunteers and knocked on over 5,400 doors.

This year, Missoula and Bozeman Trick or Vote events will draw over 200 young volunteers for an action-packed get-out-the-vote effort that will be sweet as candy. The national effort is coordinated by the Bus Federation Civic Fund and features partners from across the country. For a glimpse into Trick or Vote’s signature mix of humor and democracy, check out the latest batch of volunteer-created monster videos now available at trickorvote.org.

Volunteers will meet up at the Stensrud Event Center in Missoula or Room 233 of the Student Union Building in Bozeman on October 31 at 5:30pm and walk the city to remind people to vote.  After the canvass, volunteers will be treated to an epic Halloween party, featuring contests, prizes, live music, and more. Costumes required!

 

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FMF on HuffPo: Colorful Proof That Young People Give a Sh*t

From the Huffington Post:

Dr. Kayje Booker, Registradiologist
Forward Montana Foundation

Hello, friends. I speak to you today a leader of bunnies; we are pink, and we are legion.

Here in Montana, the Pink Bunnies of Forward Montana Foundation register young people to vote, 10,000 and counting so far this year. We’ve hopped all around Big Sky Country (all 147,046 square miles) spreading democracy, and our gigantic ears have wiggled for joy at what we have heard from the young folks: they are engaged and passionate and ready to exercise their right to vote.

So while I’ve heard the rumors that young people are going to sit this election out, that they are disaffected and unenthusiastic, after personally registering a couple thousand of them to vote in the last six months, I feel confident in saying that those rumors are false. When we pull out our voter registration signs and clipboards on campuses around the state, we’re mobbed by students who want to make sure that they’ve done everything they need to in order to vote this fall. We’ve talked to young people in their high school and college classes, in their dining halls, at concerts and football games – they know how important this election is, and they are excited to have their voice heard.

In fact, they’re so passionate about making sure young people show up in this election that they are out there right now registering each other to vote! Hundreds of them across Montana have been pounding the pavement in Pink Bunny attire to make sure their friends, frenemies, roommates, distant cousins, and casual acquaintances are all current on their voter registration. Hundreds more will be out in October to ensure that those same people vote this fall. Here at Forward Montana Foundation, our high school and college-age interns have put in thousands of hours, braving blizzards, extreme heat, and everything in between to register other young people to vote. Their commitment is inspiring and offers a tiny glimpse of the potential that passionate young people have to reinvigorate our democracy.

These efforts are all part of a movement towards peer-to-peer, costume-based efforts at civic engagement. The response has been phenomenal; given the opportunity to take democracy and run with it, young people are doing fantastically innovative, unexpected, and thoughtful work to promote civic engagement to their peers. Facebook memes, online “social ballots,” jump-roping robots, and ninja pirate bunnies are just some of the ways that young folks are reaching out to each other to encourage them to get involved in their democracy.

These non-traditional voter registration efforts are culminating in National Voter Registration Day, a massive effort across the country to involve businesses, community-based organizations, and other groups who usually don’t participate in this kind of thing. We are hoping to show people throughout the country that being a registered voter is an expectation that every single one of us should have for ourselves and for each other. We should be able to say, as we do at our organization, “Every bunny is doing it.”

In fact, I’m proud to say that while some states are making it harder for people to vote this fall, here in Montana we have dozens of organizations hard at work to ensure that every eligible citizen is able to cast a ballot. In our work alone, our organization, Forward Montana Foundation, has increased the size of the electorate by 1.5%, and we are just one of many organizations similarly committed to the task of engaging our citizens in the democratic process. We’ve had key support in these efforts from both sides of the aisle, with everyone from a small town Democratic Mayor to a former Republican State Senator out there in Pink Bunny costumes to register voters.

It’s certainly an exciting time to be a Pink Bunny in Montana, and we’re eager to see the results of this work come November 6th. Whatever the results, we’ll know that many more people will have spoken and that the voices of young people will have been an important part of the conversation.

 

 

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FMF hits 10,000 Voter Registration!!

Seconds ago I got the text from volunteers working in cities across the state saying that together we have accomplished something extraodinary!  The goal that seemed incredibly daunting is now firmly in our grasp!

WE DID IT!!!

Omg…we actually did it.  In 2008 we collected over 4,500 voter registration and we felt on the top of the world!  Today we get to announce that we have more than doubled that number and it’s all because of the hundreds of Pink Bunnies that grabbed a clipboard and got to work.

We could not have done this without the help of committed volunteers who cared so much about ensuring that young people were registered and ready to vote.  This is the largest third party voter registration drive in the history of the state of Montana.

Honestly folks…we are just blown away.  This is incredibly exciting and we are so glad we get to share this moment with you!

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Griz Nation Votes Event Pushes Forward Montana Foundation Past 2011 Goal

brennan_voter_reg

Forward Montana Foundation blew past their 2011 voter registration goal of 2,090 voter registrations during the Griz Nation Votes event on Sept 17, 2011.  Forward Montana Foundation teamed up with the Associated Students of the University of Montana (ASUM) to put together this first of a kind event.  Volunteers registered 128 voters on the day of the Griz game.

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Campus Tour Registers 1,167 New Voters

Forward Montana is pretty jazzed to announce that our trek to the University of Montana (Missoula) and Montana State University (Bozeman) ended with big numbers of new students registered to vote.  Following a week and a half of registering people to vote we ended up with 1,167 new registered voters in Montana.  This is a new record for Forward Montana!

We registered 452 Bobcats and 715 Grizzlies on our tour!  We want to give a big thank you to the many volunteers who helped us in both cities.  This new bench mark is a big freakin’ deal and we couldn’t have done it without you!

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Marielle Gallagher: Why I’m an Intern

If you wake up one day and realize that at age 16 you’ve lived an unsatisfying shell of an existence and want desperately to be part of something bigger and  better than yourself, you can.

You can handle this two ways. You could get a beach-side shack and carve figurines out of driftwood. Or, 
you could volunteer.If television’s to be believed, this basically means bandaging the paws of puppies for hours.

But maybe you’re allergic to puppies.

Turns out, there are thousands of different ways to get involved in your community. Yes, some of these involve animal shelters, but then you have things like  Forward Montana.

They register young people to vote, train new leaders (such as myself) and encourage young adults to get politically involved.

Does it sound like the most insanely boring thing on earth?

It’s not. It’s absolutely the most fun I have ever had working without pay.

No, really.

As a child, the only things I knew of politics were the shadow of George W. Bush and the tedium of The West Wing. Today I find myself excited about an internship at an organization specializing in political activism. Confusing, right?

Not quite as confusing as my first day,  though. After trekking to downtown and wandering through a florescent-lit maze for a few minutes, I poked my head into the Forward MT offices.

“Hello?”

“Hey! There she is!”

The she was me and within ten minutes I had a task assigned. But my confusion still lingered.

“We need you—are you ready for this? We need you…to make posters,” said The Blond One.

Maybe I looked confused or simply scared, because The Boy One chimed in,

“Yeah, Health Challenge posters. It’s this thing we’re doing. In the office. To see which one of us is healthiest in June. Hint: it’s me.”

“Yeah, that…that won’t be me,” said the one with the gimpy shoulder.

Posters! That’s something I’d done before, lots! This was something I could do, without question.

Armed with Crayolas and poster board, I began. Then it occurred to me.

“Hey, The Boy One?”

“Yes, Intern?”

“How does this relate to politics?”

“Uh…”

Were these people really part of a political organization? If so, why were they laughing and making merry?And whywas I playing with markers?

Maybe this was a test. A hazing process. Maybe my marker selection said something about my political alignment. I put my faith in their system and made some art.

Then a few funny things happened. The first came mid-poster. There I was, embellishing a drawing of a narwhal, when I re

alized something. This didn’t feel like work. This didn’t even feel like unpaid work. This was fun.And when I presented my creations for the amusement of my superiors, I realized I felt kinda, almost…accepted and liked. Anyone who’s survived high school knows that, during the teen years, this feeling can be as elusive as a leprechaun giving Merry Poppins a piggyback ride. Its presence in the real world, was refreshing, not to mention a great ego boost. All over a few posters.

Of course, a trickier assignments was handed down—“Design thank you cards that are both quirky and original but also appeal to a broad range of people while being cost-effective. Now.”—but the feeling of being appreciated didn’t disappear.

I think that says a lot.

I think any group of people who can meet a 16 year old girl and immediately make her feel ten times more useful to society than she did before—any organization that can do that—has got some serious mojo working for it.

And that was just the first day. I’ve never been this excited to work, for hours, without pay, in a windowless, beige box…where was I? Well anyway, I’m jazzed to be here.

So if you ever find yourself lying in bed, completely incapable of purposeful movement, if you find yourself listless and bored with life, I have but one suggestion: get yourself involved with Forward MT. The driftwood carving industry is tanking anyway.

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