… Well 97 years and counting. The American Legion’s strong tradition of voter and civic engagement kicked off again this election year when in January it made a 2016 call to Legionnaires to exercise their duty as active citizens and promote get out the vote activities in this year’s presidential campaign.

Forty-five years before the IRS and Congress decreed that all charities had to remain nonpartisan, the American Legion, one of the nation’s oldest and largest veteran’s organizations, embedded nonpartisanship into their founding constitution. It said:

“…this organization shall be absolutely non-(partisan) and shall not be used for the dissemination of partisan principles or for the promotion of the candidacy of any person seeking public office or preferment”.

One year later at its national convention in Cleveland it enshrined a permanent commitment to active voter engagement, further declaring,

“Elections are important to our republic. As citizens of this great nation, it is our duty and responsibility to exercise this right of franchise by casting our ballots on Election Day and to encourage others to do so as well.”

The American Legion is a “grassroots” organization with over two million members and 14,000 local posts worldwide.  It maintains a primary commitment to supporting programs for veterans and child welfare. It’s also supported related causes such as seed funding for the American Cancer Society and National Association for Mental Health.

Since its inception, the organization has passed countless similar resolutions advocating Legionnaires to not only exercise their constitutional responsibility to vote, but to also encourage others to do the same.

Most recently, in 2015 it joined Nonprofit VOTE and 2,200 other civic partners, in supporting National Voter Registration Day – the new and growing national celebration of democracy held on the 4th Tuesday of September by resolution of the National Association of Secretaries of State.

The American Legion highlights the power of nonpartisanship. It credits its success advancing laws and funding for benefits veteran’s and children’s issues to being nonpartisan and achieving clout and respect with both major parties.

In its Get Out the Vote program featured on it national website – it highlights the power of personal contact to educate and engage voters.  Its eight-point GOTV program encourages members and posts to do voter registration, conduct candidate forums, engage on ballot measures and go door to door, make calls or hold events to get out the vote.

In an era of too much partisanship and not enough voter participation, a tip of the hat, to its almost 100 years of support for nonpartisanship and citizen action.  And, by the way, their well-recognized hat may not be worn at candidate events – but can be worn proudly voting at the polls on Election Day.

For more information on the American Legion Get Out the Vote program, see here.

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