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New Program Helps Voters Understand County Races

The League of Women Voters is partnering with Allegheny County to expand a voter education program that makes County elections easier to understand.

County Executive Rich Fitzgerald admits it takes some extra self-motivation on the voters' part to know what's going in local races. "People are seeing advertisements for President and maybe for U.S. Senate, but some of these other races don't have advertising going on and people may not know," he said.

The County's education program, largely consisting of a website, doesn't change the fact that voters need to do their own research, it just makes it a lot easier for them to find the information they need. Through the portal, voters can easily search their addresses to determine if they're registered at a polling location, what that location is, and the candidates on the ballot in their district and party.

The new initiative by the League of Women Voters is making sure more people know this resource exists. The expanded program also addresses questions arising this year about Congressional redistricting and new voter ID laws.

"After they look at the Allegheny County elections division website, they will find out which candidates will be on their ballot, and then it is their responsibility to go and get information about the candidates for whom they're going to vote," said League of Women Voters co-president Arlene Levy.

To that end, the League is partnering with public, university, and high school libraries across the County to make sure signage and informational bookmarks are available to help voters do the research. The League is hoping to reach those without access to personal computers while they're in places with public Internet access. The bookmarks note the County website's URL, as well as primary and general election dates and deadlines for registration and absentee ballots.

Levy, a retired history teacher, is hesitant to use the word "homework," especially when trying to engage a young demographic, but she said even a little work goes a long way. Trained staff will be available at polling stations to sort out confusion on Election Day, but it's better for everyone if voters find answers ahead of time, she said.

"Out motto basically is 'your vote is your voice.' You shouldn't just grumble about what's going on. You should take an active part in voting and being a concerned citizen in this society," Levy said.