After you’ve finally unpacked the last box and are ready to venture out and explore Lakeland, getting civically involved might be next on your to-do list.
“I think planning to vote can be very informative for new residents,“ said Lori Edwards, Polk County’s Supervisor of Elections. “As they prepare to cast their ballot, they seek out information about their local and state officials, and learn what important issues are being considered.”
Registering to vote is something that should not be put off for too long, as you must be registered to vote 30 days prior to an election in order to cast a ballot.
Population growth and shifts in demographics have altered what was a deeply conservative city. “Alignment with the two major parties is decreasing,” Edwards said. “The fastest-growing category of voters in Polk County is ‘other’ – that is, the people who are registering with no party affiliation, or a minor independent party. Currently, 29% of our voters fall into that category.”
Voter registration: Most new residents will conveniently register to vote when they get their new driver license. The Polk County Supervisor of Elections office can help you with voter registration and election questions. Its website also offers a variety of voter education and outreach. It includes tours of the operations center and getting involved in voter registration drives.
City government: The city of Lakeland’s website offers may resident-friendly tips, including how to attend a City Commission meeting, how to contact your city commissioners, and learn what is on the City Commission agenda. Lakeland also offers a chance for citizens to gain deeper insights into city services through the Citizens Academy (space is limited to 30 participants per year).
County and state government: The Lakeland Chamber of Commerce compiles a list of elected officials and their contact information, and the Polk County Supervisor of Elections office also maintains a comprehensive list of local, state and federal elected officials. LkldNow publishes Voter Guides with pertinent details on each candidate for local elections.
Local political organizations: Aligning with those who hold the same values as you offers a sense of camaraderie, but it also provides a way to make a difference in Lakeland. The Lakeland Democratic Club meets the first Thursday of each month, and the Democratic Women’s Club of Lakeland was established in 2017 and has several outreach events. The Republican Club of Lakelandand the Faith-Based Republican Club of West Polk County are two of several clubs under the umbrella of the Polk County Republican Executive Committee. The Libertarian Party is also active in Lakeland, where its annual convention was held in 2021.
Non-partisan organizations: Since 2001, the Polk Ecumenical Action Council for Empowerment (PEACE) has been rallying diverse congregations to work together to identify root causes of community problems and resolve them. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) has an active chapter in Lakeland. Black Lives Matter Restoration Polk is also active locally advocating for racial justice and equality. Several veterans and patriotic groups help our community, including the Lakeland chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, the several Amvets posts, two Veterans of Foreign Wars posts, Disabled American Veterans, and Polk Veterans Council. The League of Women Voters, a non-partisan political organization, encourages the informed and active participation of citizens in government, works to increase understanding of public policy issues and aim to influence public policy through education & advocacy.
Lakeland abounds with volunteer opportunities for teens, retirees and everyone in between. Here is a list of volunteer opportunities in Lakeland, compiled by the Lakeland Mom website. Polk County Government also operates a volunteer service, which oversees disaster volunteers and donations, AmeriCorps, community outreach, business citizenship and the Board of County Commissioners Volunteer Program. Organizations who heavily rely on their volunteer base year round include Polk County Schools, Guardian ad Litem, Volunteers in Service to the Elderly (VISTE), Lakeland Regional Health and LVIM.
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