Alice Giles has a tendency to talk fast. Whether the subject is new town zoning, the upcoming elections or advocating for stormwater management, she can talk extensively on many topics.
Providing information is what Giles, 26, does as co-president of the League of Women Voters of Howard County. Before elections, the non-partisan group creates an election guide and holds forums for prospective candidates.
However, in the age of the Internet, just sending out a hard-copy election guide isn't enough, according to Giles, who is working with the League to find more ways to distribute information electronically.
"I want to make it a more modern, active group," said Giles, who lives in North Laurel, in an interview with Patch. "The answer to how I make it more modern is 'The Internet.'"
Recently the group posted short, unedited interviews with this year's board of education candidates on YouTube. The group has created Facebook and Twitter accounts to disperse information through social media. And they've added membership forms and applications online to provide prospective members with an easy way to join the organization.
They've even added PayPal to their site to allow supporters to contribute online. And the group's voters guides are posted online, with an interactive ballot that allows users to review candidates, after they enter their address information.
Of course, Giles isn't working by herself to bring more of the League's information online.
"Sarah Husain has really helped us move forward, by taking point on the campaign interviews, which allow voters to get to know candidates when they have the chance," wrote Giles in an email. "Our Action Chairs, Alison Carney and Valerie Montague are working with other nonpartisan groups to develop a shared database for reporting on community events and meetings. This will help a number of community groups share information and recognize issues and gaps in information sharing earlier so we can address them."
Giles, who is the daughter of current school board member and candidate Ellen Flynn Giles, said the group uses two presidents to stay unbiased.
She said Betsy Grater, the group's co-president, has taken the lead on handling information related to the board of education candidates.
"My mother is on the school board, she's running for re-election, so it's hard to be non-biased on that one," admitted Giles.
Other than that, Giles said she stays objective by understanding she doesn't know all the answers.
"I constantly find in discussions with people that I'm missing a piece or I may be wrong," said Giles, who works as a curriculum editor for the Maryland State Department of Education.
Giles said she believes the League fills a niche for people like her, who are looking for accurate information in a format that attempts to eliminate bias.
"We're a group who figures we don't have all the answers," said Giles. "But we believe the more information you have, the better answers you can find."
Giles said putting that information online gives residents the opportunity to look deeper into issues and candidates.
"It's great that we can put up information about a bill and link citizens directly to the legislation, to the council agenda, to background research, and to the testimony page," Giles noted. "We're the people who really like following these things and online we can make it much easier for people who don't work with the government on a daily basis to be informed and involved."
Nationally, the League of Women Voters, which was founded 93 years ago, six months before women received the right to vote, supports wind energy, prevention of fracking, open government and marriage equality as well as ensuring fair elections, said Giles.
Over the next two months, the Howard County League will be sponsoring three forums to provide voters with the opportunity to learn more about candidates and local issues (information from League website):
- Board of Education – Sept. 24, 7 p.m. at the HCPSS Television Studio, 10920 Route 108. Seating is quite limited, but the forum will air live, be televised regularly, and hosted online.
- Congressional Candidates – Oct. 2, 7 p.m. at the George Howard Building, Banneker Room. Tons of seating, and this event will air live, be televised regularly, and hosted online.
- Ballot Questions – Oct. 25, 7 p.m. at the George Howard Building, Banneker Room. Tons of seating, and this event will air live, be televised regularly, and hosted online.
Also, the League will be hosting the Capitol Steps, a comedy group from Washington D.C. that specializes in political satire, for a fundraiser on Oct. 7 at 4 p.m. at the Rouse Theatre.
Editor's Note, Correction: The co-President of the League of Women Voters of Howard County is Betsy Grater, not Betsy Singer as written in the original article.