(Initially posted on PittEnvironmental with a slightly more collegiate focus)
Stemming out of a long, excited discussion of the state of affairs in infrastructure and government, we got to that ephemeral topic of why people do/don’t vote, and the question of ‘How are people supposed to be knowledgable about these issues without investing an inordinate amount of time?’ (Sidenote: I have invested an inordinate amount of time and I’m still not sure it’s enough). Answer: A crash course on major topics, the week or two before the election.
Pick five major areas. I’d suggest Energy, Economy, Healthcare, Foreign Affairs, and Poverty, but we could discuss it.
Find local experts on these issues. Around a city, there are a bunch of these, so you can also add ‘good communicator’ and ‘funny’. Get a good room - figure seating for 30+, standing room for 50+, projector available.
Set up a schedule of (as an example), half hour intro to the issue (‘this is why this matters and what the major challenges are’), half hour presentation of major options going forward, with some pros and cons or discussion of what assumptions you might be making to value these different paths, half hour of large group questions, possibly with a panel of experts in specific areas (nuclear power, grid reliability, climate change, etc.), and half hour extra for informal discussion.
Do one issue per night for the week before the election. If you’re feeling ambitious, do the whole series twice over two weeks, but shift it by one day so that someone with an obligation some night of the week could still come to all the different topics. Advertise everywhere, insinuating that not being educated is not an excuse – and while this won’t make you an expert, it should give you a good set of ideas to base your decision on. Advertise widely.
Would people come? I don’t know. But I do know that if we’re in a chicken and egg cycle of ‘people don’t come because the events don’t exist’ and ‘the events don’t exist because people wouldn’t come’, it’s easier to try to break this by fixing the former. And it sounds like a phenomenal event. Does this exist already? Who wants to help create it? And yes, we should endeavor to do this in many local communities – or encourage others to do so. Transition may focus primarily on the Energy piece, but engaging people to be effective voters seems like it fits, and connecting related groups to talk about these issues, particularly from a regional perspective, seems awesomely Transition-y