The Unstoppable Duo: How Two Houston Women Registered Voters During a Pandemic
Meet Lauren Blanton and Judy Viebig.
Their civic journey began at a nonprofit organization where they registered voters together, and their collegial working relationship grew when Lauren joined the Voter Registration Team at the League of Women Voters of Houston for naturalization ceremonies. Lauren and Judy have an easy working relationship. Judy’s administrative and writing background meshes with Lauren’s engineering background, and they share a similar work ethic (and love for meals with meetings in the park).
At the League, their team helped register more than 31,000 new voters in 2019. Then came February 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic. Large naturalization ceremonies ceased; all was put on hold until June, when the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) began holding small administrative naturalizations in their offices. To ensure that new citizens could register to vote, Lauren and Judy attached welcoming notes from the League of Women Voters to voter registration applications for USCIS to distribute to the new citizens.
By July, Lauren and Judy were working with another LWV voter registration team to seek safe ways to increase voter registration for the November election. Knowing that the public historically expected government documents to be available in U.S. post offices, they devised a plan to create voter registration kits and distribute them to post offices, naming their campaign “Adopt a Post Office.” They recruited volunteers and over 100 came forth immediately!
Comprehensive voter registration kits were assembled—safely, outside on Judy’s driveway—containing applications in four languages, pens, LWV voting information bookmarks and flags. The kits were given to volunteers on their front yards. They caught up with old friends from naturalization and made plenty of new ones.
The volunteers began distributing these kits to 90 post offices across the Houston metropolitan area and were met with a variety of responses. However, they soon discovered that the United States Postal Service had directed their post offices to cease the display of voting and election materials! Some kits were denied outright; some were returned; many were destroyed.
The League of Women Voters leadership—at all levels—appealed to the United States Postal Service. The media and representatives Sylvia Garcia and Al Green joined in—and democracy prevailed! On September 18, 2020, Congresswoman Garcia’s office received a letter from the United States Postal Service reversing their original directive, and Houston post offices began again to accept and distribute voter registration materials.
Voter registration kit assembly and distribution recommenced for post office volunteers whose previous kits had been destroyed. Voter registration applications were resupplied as supplies were depleted. Lauren and Judy managed the process safely outside, occasionally meeting six feet apart at Memorial Park.
Since Election Day, the unstoppable duo have focused their efforts on displaying voter registration applications at post offices that agree to stock them long-term, along with furnishing applications with notes to USCIS for their naturalization ceremonies.
Thank you to both Judy and Lauren for their hard work and providing the content needed to share this.