Voice to Vote
By: the TCOM Team
Let’s all vote and help those who need our help to vote as well. Everyone should have a voice in creating our national shared vision.
Over the past decade, a many of us have participated in a number of strategic planning processes that played off 2020 representing perfect vision (e.g. Vision 2020). Frankly none of those planning exercises anticipated the three crises that now confront us—a deadly pandemic, the resultant economic collapse, and a tragic and dramatic awakening of how far we need to go to achieve racial justice. We find ourselves in a moment unlike any that we have experienced before.
An important focus of the TCOM group is the use of collaboration as a core component of creating a shared vision to guide our work. In the U.S. democracy, collaboration and visioning begins through all of us exercising our civic duty to vote. This is one important way for ALL of our voices to be heard. While no single vote may make much difference, the collective vote establishes a great deal about the direction that we take as a state or a nation in solving problems.
Although there is not a lot of science addressing these issues, we believe that a large percentage of people who work in the helping sectors (and might be reading this blog) already routinely exercise their right and responsibility to vote. For example, Mizrahi and Abramowitz recently opined that ‘Voting is Social Work’ in discussing the National Social Work voter mobilization campaign:
Sadly, many of the people we help are much less likely to vote. In some states, there are barriers for some people with mental health challenges or criminal histories to vote, but these barriers are not consistent across states. Sometimes these barriers are a form of voter suppression. The people we help may need our help in overcoming these barriers. We think collectively there are things that we can do.
If you are a behavioral health provider, the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 requires provider agencies to make voter registration opportunities available at the time of enrollment in care, renewal of care, or if the individual has changed addresses.
Given housing instability among those we serve, it is important to remain diligent to this barrier to voting.
The following sites can help with felony disenfranchisement.
The American Bar Association provides resources for people with disabilities, minority voters and adults under guardianship.
WHAT TO DO:
The first step of course is to register. A great resources is Vote.org
Here you can found out whether you or someone you are working with currently registered and, if not, they can register through this site. You can also use this site to request an absentee ballot to allow them to vote by mail if that is their preference and available in their state.
We are asking that each of us at our local level who are working with individuals with behavioral health challenges or adults with children in the foster care system, or young adults who are transitioning out of care. Perhaps someone on your agencies staff can facilitate voter registration and assist people in knowing when and how to vote when that time comes.
Many states require advance registration to participate in future elections so now is the time to begin to make sure everyone is registered to vote. We realize that for some absentee and vote by mail approaches have been politicized, for us, it is simply a matter of public health. Many people we serve have co-existing conditions that place them at particular risk from covid-19 infection. In addition, BIPOC people are more likely to have polling options reduced resulting in longer lines. Personal safety during the pandemic is a priority for all of us.
If you have ideas or strategies that you develop or are using, please share so that we can learn from each other how to ensure that everyone has their voice in our democracy.