PARTNER HIGHLIGHT

Meet an SLSV Partner: Nile Blass, League of Women Voters

In celebration of Women’s History Month, let’s illuminate the inspiring work of Nile Blass, a driving force behind the League of Women Voters’ (LWV) efforts to empower young voters. With a fervent dedication to civic engagement and a steadfast commitment to equality, Nile is leading the charge to ensure that the voices of tomorrow are heard loud and clear. Read on to learn more about the work LWV is doing and how you can get involved!

What’s new with you? What are you working on these days?

My current priorities at LWV are coordinating voter mobilization and empowerment strategies in Pennsylvania and Virginia to prepare for the 2024 elections. Another key focus of my work is on LWV’s Young Voter initiative, which aims to engage and empower 18- to 30-year-old voters to take an active role in the political process. In addition to LWV’s grants program, which supports voter registration on academic campuses, the Young Voter initiative includes webinars, resource guides, strategies, in-person convenings, and other resources that center young voters, their needs, and their political advocacy. Through these efforts, I am committed to building strong partnerships and empowering young people to actively shape our political landscape.

How did you first get involved with the #StudentVote?

When I first joined the LWVUS team, I was thrilled to learn about our long-standing partnership with SLSV. Through this partnership, I’ve had the opportunity to connect with some fantastic individuals, including Bianca Rosales. Attending the monthly calls and the in-person convening at UMD has allowed me to stay up-to-date on the latest developments within the coalition and provided me with a unique opportunity to connect with other like-minded partners who are just as passionate about creating positive change as I am.

Why are civic holidays essential, and how do you celebrate them?

Civic holidays are a critical reminder of our opportunity as citizens to participate in the democratic process and support the officials who make our elections possible. And I have to say, I love celebrating these holidays! Whether by casting my vote in every election, attending a town hall meeting, or simply learning about the issues that matter most, I always go out of my way to ensure I’m doing my part. By staying engaged and informed and by actively participating in the democratic process, I genuinely believe that we can make a difference and help shape the future of our country and our communities positively.

How has Campus Takeover helped with your civic holiday celebrations?

We constantly strive to provide Leagues with more resources and opportunities to promote student and young voter engagement. We don’t want them just to attend our meetings and rallies, but to work with them as equal and active thought partners in our advocacy for democracy. The toolkits, for example, have been very helpful for Leagues with ongoing partnerships with their local colleges and universities.

What plans do you have this year to celebrate National Voter Education Week?

This year, Leagues nationwide are planning a series of events aimed at increasing voter turnout and engagement, including voter registration drives, educational workshops on local and national issues, and forums with elected officials. We’ll also utilize social media campaigns and partnerships with community organizations to reach a wider audience. Our goal is to ensure that every eligible voter is informed and motivated to participate in our democracy, ultimately strengthening our communities and advancing social justice.

What are some of your personal inspirations? It can be a person, an organization, an idea, a mantra, etc.

This year, Leagues nationwide are planning a series of events aimed at increasing voter turnout and engagement, including voter registration drives, educational workshops on local and national issues, and forums with elected officials. We’ll also utilize social media campaigns and partnerships with community organizations to reach a wider audience. Our goal is to ensure that every eligible voter is informed and motivated to participate in our democracy, ultimately strengthening our communities and advancing social justice.

Have you read any good books lately? What are you doing when you’re not working?

I recommend giving The Heaven and Earth Grocery Store by James McBride a read! Aside from new books, I’m also a big fan of live music events, cool cultural events, and new exhibits at the different Smithsonian Museums in DC, and trying out new, overly complicated recipes in my kitchen.

Finish this sentence: In a perfect democracy…

Every voter matters as much as its vote. 

What’s your favorite part of your job? The most challenging?

One aspect of my work that I particularly enjoy is the direct organizing and collaboration with leagues, their members, and their communities. Recently, we mobilized with the League of Women Voters AL and college students from across the state for the Selma Jubilee, which was a great success. However, one of the most challenging parts of my work is how frequently the sociopolitical landscape changes when it comes to ballot access, social equity, and other critical societal structures. These changes can greatly affect the nature of my work, making it more difficult to achieve our goals.

How do you support campuses and student voters?

LWV supports campuses and student voters in various ways, from the local level to the national. From our national level, we provide grants and training resources to support voter registration on academic campuses. I mentioned in another answer that we’re currently developing and launching a litany of new webinar training, biweekly office hours for young voter organizers, and other resources. We collaborate directly with students and young voters through youth-focused partnerships, programming, and cross-mentorship. In addition, we are exploring using social media and other digital platforms like League in Action to engage young voters and increase voter turnout. 

What advice would you give someone interested in getting involved or supporting your work?

Politics are important, and our political institutions can seem daunting. However, as a person in this country, the decisions we make have a direct impact on you and your community. It is vital to always feel empowered to add your voice to the conversation, even if it scares you! That philosophy has been a big part of my getting into this work. 

How do you and your organization center racial justice and equity? 

There can be no genuine or meaningful democracy without a deep commitment to centering racial justice and equity in all aspects of our work. Currently, that work has been helmed by the League’s Transformation Journey. Through our ongoing efforts, we recognize that racial equity is not a destination but a journey requiring proactive and innovative approaches. Building upon our Transformation Roadmap introduced in 2018 and the elevation of our DEI Policy in 2020, at our 2022 National Convention, we adopted new bylaws, budget commitments, and initiatives as the foundation of our Structure Transformation Plan. Our initiatives focus on amplifying the voices of marginalized communities, dismantling systemic barriers to participation, and fostering partnerships with diverse stakeholders. We also continue to advocate, through organizing, media, and litigation, against the marginalization of certain voters through gerrymandering, voter ID laws, and other ballot barriers. By centering racial justice and equity, we ensure that the League remains a national leader in democracy defense, empowering all voters and strengthening our grassroots power for the next century and beyond. My previous political work and organizing have always emphasized the intersections of racial justice and equity and our nation’s biggest obstacles. 

What’s been the most surprising thing about your work since you started? 

How much excitement has been in the League for resources and programs that center and mobilize young voters! 

The SLSV Coalition is the national hub and largest nonpartisan network in the United States dedicated to increasing college student voter participation. The Coalition convenes and connects partners, campuses, and students with each other and with resources and programming towards achieving a vision of ensuring that every student has easy and equal access to participate in every election. They use data, relationships, celebration, and easy-to-follow planning structures, to help campus and local leaders register and turnout more student voters every year. The SLSV Coalition is a project of NEO Philanthropy. NEO Philanthropy is strictly nonpartisan, and does not support or oppose any candidate or party.

Join the #StudentVote Movement

We are the national hub and largest nonpartisan network in the United States dedicated to increasing college student voter participation. We are successful and growing stronger everyday because of people like you! 

Sign up today to get involved with the Students Learn Students Vote Coalition!