During classes at our Resource Center, we discovered that nearly all of our adult students were unaware of the candidates who are running for election in this year's presidential campaign. While aware that there is an election, and also that they are registered to vote, as this is routinely done during the new consumer's intake into the Resource Center; they also have little understanding of issues that have been part of the election process.
This poses two questions that need to be addressed and can be through the help of this grant. First, are there likely other consumers who are registered to vote equally impaired of the knowledge they should have to make decisions that will affect them and their community ? Secondly, if the first is true can a group of consumers gather the information from community resources within a few weeks time, and present that information for other consumers ?
Proposed Use Of The Grant
We propose to address the issue raised in two ways. One would be to conduct a survey throughout the Blackstone Valley ARC to determine the percentage of consumers who are registered to vote, and the range of their awareness of candidates, issues, and the election process.
The survey will be conducted through mailings and interviews, including two days of an open house for consumer interviews conducted by the Resource Center's Community Action group.
While the survey is being conducted, other members of the group will collect information from the available community sources ( as of this writing, neither national candidate has opened a headquarters in R.I. ), the internet pages of political parties, the newspaper accounts of the issues raised during the campaign and by visiting places of government in their community. The group will also video and interview citizens from the community to ask what issues are important to them.
This information will be presented by the Community Action Group to consumer's throughout the Blackstone Valley ARC by staging a voter information night, with a mock debate between the Presidential candidates, a video presentation about the issues of this year's campaign, and a presentation on how to use the voting machine. Members ofCAG would also be on hand to help to register more consumers to vote after the presentation.
update: May 18, 2000
Students of the community action classes recently attended the Adult Education day at the State House to learn more about the history of our unique capitol building and to begin to understand how the debate on community issues becomes formed into law.
The class has also begun a chapter wide survey to determine how much our own disabled population understands of the process of their own community government, the politicians who are now in charge of both local and federal government, who the candidates are for both local and federal offices in this year's election, and lastly, what issues do they understand to be important to the leaders who will be elected.
In order to survey as many consumers as possible with as wide a spectrum of the consumers of the Blackstone Valley Chapter, the class interviewed workers at Blackstone Valley Industries, the Chapter's two resale shops New 2U in Pawtucket and Central Falls, as well as workers at the Dagget Farm greenhouse and students from the Resource Center.
So far the survey has yielded suprising results. If the percentages stay the course they have set so far, the class will have a lot of information to gather and present to our consumers. Here are a few of the findings:
- While more than half of those interviewed knew that Bill Clinton is president, less than a third knew the name of the Governor of Rhode Island.
- Less than a third interviewed so far
know the names of the men who represent Rhode Island in Congress.
- Less than a third know the name of
the mayor in their town or city.
- Less than half of those consumers interviewed so far know the names of the candidates running in the 2000 presidential election.
- All of the consumers interviewed so
far, are registered to vote.
While the surveys have been conducted, the class has also begun to gather information on the issues discussed by the candidates, clipping out newspaper articles and printing other's from the internet which then lead to some lively discussions in class.
In the past two weeks the class has discussed the idea of waivers for families who want an alternative to public school, and the problems facing Social Security, and what the proposed solutions are from the Presidential candidates.
The class has arranged a demonstration from the R.I. Board Of Elections at Independence Square on June 15th for the benefit of all Chapter consumers.
That's what we've accomplished so far, and I think the class is just gearing up for their own presentation on the elections.
Introduction: The Election 2000 Project was undertaken by the Community Action Group of the BVC Resource Center . Adult students had a role in every facet, whether it be as an interviewer for the survey, or video taping citizens on the street or preparing for their part in the presentations given to offer needed information to ARC consumers.
I. Results Of The Survey.
The first step of our project was for the class to conduct a survey among the consumers of Blackstone Valley Chapter ARC to determine the level of information they currently had concerning community leaders, the candidates for local and federal offices in this year's election, and the issues that were important to them.
The surveys were conducted over a three - four week period at the Resource Center, the Blackstone Valley Industries building, and the two retail stores that the Chapter operates for employment and community integration.
The results held some surprises for class members, even though an informal survey among the class had found that while some members knew about the Presidential race, very few knew the local candidates who would represent them in the state house after the election. Here are the key points found in our survey:
- While nearly 70 % of those interviewed knew that Bill Clinton was President, less than 40 % knew the name of the Governor of R.I.
- While 90 % of those interviewed could tell us the name of the town or city where they reside, only about 15 % could tell us who the Mayor of that town or city is, and no one could tell us one of the representative's from their town or city who works in the State House on their behalf.
- An interesting aside is that Buddy Cianci was named as Mayor of every city or town by at least one person interviewed from each community.
- While just over 30 % of those interviewed could name the Vice President of the United States, less than 5 % could name the State's Lt. Governor.
- While 29 % could give the names of the candidates for President, less than 15 % could name the candidate's for the Senate from R.I., and only 2 % could name a candidate for the House.
- Only 15 % of those interviewed could name their current representatives in the U.S. Congress and less than 10 % could name the current Senators from R.I.
- About 18 % of those interviewed could name two of the political parties in the U.S., and about 33 % could name the offices open in this year's election.
- The 29 % of those interviewed who could name Presidential candidates corresponds with the 32 % of those who told us that they watched for the candidates on television.
- 70 % of those interviewed told us that they get information about the government and the elections from watching television, while 10 % gave radio as the answer. Less than 2 % said that they use the internet to find information, and over 60 % told us that they cannot read a newspaper to gather information.
- The issues that are important to consumers in this year's election are listed in order of the greater percentage given to the survey:
- Medicare/ the cost of prescription drugs: 25 %
- Social Security : 21 %
- Health care : 12 %
- Education : 8 %
- Gun Control : 8 %
- The Environment : 8 %
Other issues mentioned in a lower percentile were disabilities, taxes, drug prevention, the economy, housing, budget control, employment and political campaign reform.
II. The Outcome Of The Survey.
Students reviewed the results of the survey in early June and set out to gather information about the candidates and research the issues presented by the ARC consumers. One student printed lists of all mayors and state representatives that he found on internet sites. Other students hunted the newspapers for articles concerning the Presidential candidates and issues raised by the survey. Volunteers prepared presentations on Medicare, Social Security, The Environment, Gun Control, and even Missle Defense. This was achieved by again reading through current articles and also by studying the history of the issue and by class discussion. All of the issues raised by other consumers in the survey were often vigorously debated in class, and many were surprised that some concerns have been around for so long.
Equally suprising to the students was the amount of frustration found when they set out to interview pedestrians in downtown Pawtucket. Some used the opportunity to spout off on politics in general or with special zeal against the state's own brand of politics. Almost everyone interviewed planned to vote but voiced disdain at the choice of Presidential candidates in this year's election, and almost everyone had yet to learn more than a few local candidates names.
Within a week after the survey had been
distributed, the Blackstone Valley Arc's Self Advocacy Group stepped
forward and asked to help in our efforts to bring our
voters the information they would need for this election. With this partnership, began the planning needed for the presentations.
While students were preparing their issue presentations, others were planning for the day those presentations would be given. Members of the C.A.G who were not researching issues took other roles in the next steps to be taken.
One student helped to arrange a demonstration given for all ARC consumers by the R.I. Board Of Elections on using the newer voting machines that many of our consumers had not used before.
Three students who attended the Adult Student Day at the State House put together an information board about their visit and wrote to invite a local representative to speak on how the laws that we have are made in the State House as part of our Election 2000 presentation.
Other students worked with members of the Advocacy group to secure the space needed, the equipment for a multi-media presentation, and a necessary ingredient to getting a large crowd - food for the event.
The first presentation will be given to ARC consumers on July 28, with the entire day at the Resource Center turned over for the event and combined with an outdoor bar-b-que and voter registration.
The presenters will be as follows:
Robert A. Geake ( as Abraham Lincoln ) who travels to the state because one consumer survey named him as the present Governor. Mr Lincoln will clear up the confusion and take the opportunity to tell the crowd about his one visit to the state in 1860, and about the importance of being an informed voter.
Joshua Briggs: On Mayors in the Blackstone Valley area.
Joshua will ask people in the audience to stand when their city or town
is named and then quiz them on the survey question. Those who get the answer
wrong will be corrected and given placards for the end of his presentation
when the name of their community is called again and they must stand and
call out the name of their mayor.
Charles Zawacki : On the Survey and current lawmakers who represent Rhode Island in Washington.
Charles will inform the audience of the result of the survey question and then give a brief history of the two Representatives in the House and the state's two Senators.
Chris Barboza and Michael Guzman : A presentation of the video survey.
Chris Barboza and Michelle Peloquin: A mock debate between the two Presidential Candidates.
Chris and Michelle will use this format to present where each candidate
stands on the issues raised so far in the election campaign.
Chris Barboza : Medicare and the high cost of prescription drugs.
After giving a short history, Chris will give information about the effect this issue has on ARC consumers and what each candidate proposes.
Charles Zawacki : Social Security.
Charles will also present a short history and tell of the present debate to ensure that SSI is still available after 2050. Again, both candidate's proposals will be given as well as the idea raised by senate candidate Richard Licht.
Damon Mahon : The Environment.
Damon wants to speak of the need to keep this issue alive in the
election, pointing out that while much has been accomplished in both our
state and country, there is still more that we should do. Part of
Damon's presentation will be about Global Warming.
Michelle Peloquin: Gun Control.
Michelle will speak her opinion on the need for more gun control.
She is especially concerned with guns getting into schools.
Ray Oldham : Education.
Ray will present the views of the candidates concerning funding to schools, teachers, and the idea of government paid vouchers for private education.