by KENDRA HOGAN - CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER and MILENDRA BASS - DIRECTOR OF PROGRAMS
INCREASING VOTER ENGAGEMENT THROUGH A GET OF THE VOTE CAMPAIGN IN ROOSEVELT
As Roosevelt is an unincorporated hamlet on Long Island, the community does not have a government board or structure versus a village, for instance.
This results in residents participating in a school board, fire district, sanitation district, local community library, Town of Hempstead, Nassau County, New York State and US federal elections – all different layers of governments who each independently represent the needs of our community.
With these layers comes a challenge expressed by residents in ensuring residents in Roosevelt receives it's fair and equitable share of resources to build real change that is desired by the people. Additionally, the complexity of the layers of government within a one mile hamlet can lessen the morale of residents to be actively engage in the political process or some may not be aware of the multiple layers that they are able to voice their concerns through the power of their vote.
These issues, in part, contributes to the voter apathy challenge our organization is currently working with residents to reverse. To address the aforementioned complexities, Choice for All with local community residents formed a local grassroots campaign known as “Roosevelt Votes”. The campaign helps people access information necessary to make informed decisions and hold elected officials serving the Roosevelt public interest accountable for desired results.
Part of our four-prong strategy is non-partisan engagement increasing voting participation in all elections through voter education, registration and canvassing. In October 2018, Roosevelt Votes launched our second Get Out The Vote (GOTV) effort. The effort was funded by the Long Island Civic Engagement Fund through the Long Island Community Foundation.
As part of the GOTV effort, youth from Roosevelt High School and local colleges canvassed door-to-door to encourage residents to show up to the polls in the November 6th midterm elections.
Youth were trained on canvassing and hold critical conversations about the significance of voting. Each visit at one of our neighbor’s doors concluded with a pledge card signed by the residents. This card served as a reminder for their commitment to vote. Additionally, a door hanger was also left at every residence providing information and resources about the upcoming elections, key issues impacting our neighborhood and outline of their prospective elected officials.
As field managers of this campaign, we were responsible for training, planning and analyzing effective ways to secure voter participation. The community had overall a positive response to the street canvassing and was impressed that this was a mobilizing effort lead by community youth.
Additionally, we ensure each turf (designated area of canvassing) was adhered to and created checkpoints for the youth canvassers to have accessibility to the managers. The turfs were a continuation of one another, which made walkability to become manageable for the duration of the canvassers’ shift. At the end of every shift, we reflected as a group on the canvassers’ experience while in the field. Once canvassers adapted to the structure, they were able to set their own tone for themselves for the rest of the campaign.
The campaign also provided a great opportunity to expand our partnerships with local organizations, including STRONG Youth. High school youth from STRONG learned about the concept and importance of civic engagement. Additionally, with STRONG’s help, we were able to increase our reach and walkability with canvassing to more locations in Roosevelt.
The preliminary results of the GOTV campaign has shown great progress where through a feature article in Newsday, voter participation increased by 80% from last year’s election. We look forward to learning more about the progress from the
NEW YORK STATE CIVIC ENGAGEMENT
Table and the Long Island Civic Engagement. Additionally, the experience also helped our organization learn on the ground about Roosevelt’s culture as it pertains to politics. From learning how to properly fill out a voter registration form to understanding the issues, residents responded favorably to the youth sharing the information and encouraged more frequent around each election impacting our neighborhood. Every election matters here in Roosevelt and we intend to continue supporting the residents in being an active member of the political process.