Obama site for MLK Day events

President-Elect Obama’s inaugural team invites organizations to post their MLK Day events to the inauguration website.

This coming year, MLK Day falls on January 19th, the day before the 2009 Inauguration. Known as a “day on not a day off” and a popular day for organizing direct-service events, President-Elect Barack Obama is encouraging people to serve in their communities MLK Day and beyond.

Organizers of projects are invited to post their projects on the event registration page on the inauguration site. If you are an organizer and you’ve already posted your event on MLKDay.gov, you are asked to wait to cross post; the aim is for MLKDay.gov events to be migrated to the Inauguration site.

Community members will be able to search for local projects after the New Year. Here is analysis from the Huffington Post; below is the text of the invitation:

Every time our nation faces crisis, our national experience has shown Americans rise to the challenge. While government has an important role to play in helping rekindle our economy and addressing the problems of a distressed nation, President-elect Obama believes each of us, as Americans, have a responsibility to do what we can for our communities and fellow citizens.  We are one nation….

As a tribute to that legacy and the very real needs of our nation, the President-elect and Vice President-elect will launch a national organizing effort on the eve of their Inauguration to engage Americans in service. This national day of service will fall on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, January 19, 2009 and, unlike past calls to service, President-elect Obama will ask Americans to do more than just offer a single day of service to their cities, towns and neighborhoods.  He will ask all of us to make an ongoing commitment to our communities. …

The call will go to all Americans to organize service projects and join others at events in their communities. As the Co-chairs of the Presidential Inaugural Committee, we invite you and your organization to join other Americans to organize service projects in your communities. The Presidential Inaugural Committee will offer Americans a new website to help promote your events and for Americans to make their commitments, build communities, find opportunities to serve and share their results. These can be events that orient people to your organization’s work, engage people in direct service, or bring people together to reflect on Dr. King’s legacy and how they can commit to becoming more engaged citizens.

The official place to post and search for projects is on the MLKDay.gov site. Read more about resources for running a great project.

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Protect Your Clients’s Right to Vote and Your Own

Are you or your organization’s clients at higher risk for being challenged at the polling station November 4th? (See the end of this post for a list of people who are more likely disenfranchised.)

If so, you and they should be prepared. Election Protection offers a state-by-state run down of election policies and laws. They also encourage you to call 1-866-OUR-VOTE for legal support if you find yourself being challenged at the polling station.

Investigative journalist Greg Palast and Bobby Kennedy, Jr., have recently published a comic book called Steal Back Your Vote to educate voters about what to do in case their right to vote is challenged on Election Day. (Note: the comic book may be nonpartisan but not all of its sponsors are.)

They offer these tips:

  1. If you can avoid it, don’t mail in your ballot because mail-in ballots are more likely to be discounted and may even arrive too late to cast by election day. (In Oregon, all ballots are mail-in which actually seems to solve problems other states have faced in terms of presenting photo ID, lacking sufficient voting machines to accommodate all voters, etc.) If you are a Peace Corps Volunteer, Military service member, or other U.S. citizen living abroad, you have the right to vote absentee or through a “back-up ballot.”
  2. Vote early so that if your vote is challenged, you have time to correct the problem. According to Palast and Kennedy, “Every state now lets voters cast ballots in designated polling stations and at county offices in the weeks before Election Day.”
  3. Check your registration status. And help register others to vote.
  4. Instead of accepting a provisional ballot at the polling station, “demand adjudication from poll judges on the spot; demand a call to the supervisor of elections; or return with acceptable ID if possible.” Also, defend the rights of others as a poll watcher. (You can also volunteer to work the polls. If you have legal training, you can volunteer to protect voters at the polls.) Call Election Protection at 1-866-OUR-VOTE if you run into trouble. Provisional ballots, according to the comic book authors, are too often thrown out.
  5. Take action by registering people to vote and volunteering.
  6. Go to the polling station in a group which may empower you to stand up for your right to cast a ballot.

People most likely to be disenfranchised include the following (many which could describe term of service participants and their clients):

  • Renters/people who move around more often
  • People with low incomes
  • People of color
  • People who don’t drive and therefore don’t have a government-issued ID card
  • Elderly people, people with disabilities, people who are living abroad, and others who can’t get to the polls on Election Day
  • People who haven’t voted in awhile
  • People who are voting for the first time

Am I missing any? Leave a comment and I will update.

Also read about permitted contact between 501(c)(3) organizations and partisan contact in voter protection.