Get out the vote

It’s election time in the United States. Kiwanians will be there, as they have been for much of the organization’s 107-year history.

Story by Jack Brockley

Though bylaws prohibit clubs from expressing opinions or taking action regarding a candidate, legislation or other matters of political nature, Kiwanis’ Objects urge clubs “to develop, by precept and example, a more intelligent, aggressive and serviceable citizenship.” So, through the past century, members have provided transportation, volunteered at voting stations, organized meet-the-candidates events and supported the electoral process. Likely the most common effort involved get-out-the-vote campaigns.

  • On November 4, 1924, for example, Minnesota ballots had a three-way race for United States president, five candidates for governor and five proposed constitutional amendments. To ensure a good turnout, the Kiwanis Club of Hibbing, Minnesota, loaded up a truck with young musicians and cruised the city, proclaiming, “Vote as you please, but vote.”

  • In the 1950s, Kiwanis “declared an all-out war against the apathy and downright indifference of the voting public” by launching its Ballot Battalion. The campaign promoted registration and voting. The results? 

  • Rochester, New York, residents awoke on November 4, 1952, to the sounds of bells and whistles.

  • The Kiwanis club’s “Operation Alarm Clock” reminded citizens of their duty to vote.

  • A 1956 Kiwanis In Action brochure reported that 223,232 North American members and supporters participated in such drives.

  • In Lead, South Dakota, the campaign contributed to 77% of registered voters showing up at the polls — the best turnout in 30 years.

  • Miniature handkerchief parachutes floated down from the sky over Wauchula, Florida, carrying the local Kiwanis club’s appeal to vote.

  • The St. James, Manitoba, Kiwanis Club staged a parade with old cars carrying suffragettes, a sound truck, floats and barbershop harmonizers on election day.
  • The Logansport, Indiana, High School Key Club and its sponsoring Kiwanis club rented an amplified speaker system and set up a booth downtown to inform passersby about an upcoming local election. On prominent display was a goose statue standing above a poster that read, “I don’t vote. I just squawk.”

Through the years, the electoral process has changed, but Kiwanians continue their involvement, teaching people how to use electronic voting machines and reminding them about early voting opportunities. 

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