Shape your community: VOTE!

“One of the benefits of becoming a citizen is the ability to vote. This is important to me because voting is more than a right. It’s a responsibility and an opportunity to contribute to the success of my community.”

Our nation’s political foundation is built upon elections. Each election season, we rely on the participation of our families, neighbors, and friends to elect the leaders of tomorrow. From local communities across the United States all the way to Washington, these leaders occupy seats of decisive power and importance where they make critical decisions about the use of policy and resources. Voting for the leaders we trust to hold this influence and represent our interests is therefore fundamental to ensuring the success of our communities.

At Neighborhood House, successful and thriving communities are our goal. That’s why each election season, we hold a leading role in our community to increase voter registration, education, and engagement. We ensure voters have the resources and support they need to make their voices heard.

We spoke with the Vice-Chair of our Board of Directors, Rose Tuiyott-Lewis, about her work with Neighborhood House throughout the years, and the relationship between voting and community.

“I was born in Kenya and came to the US twenty years ago, first as a participant in an exchange program, and then returned to attend graduate school,” says Rose. “My first volunteer experience with Neighborhood House was doing voter registration at a food drive a few years ago.”

She continues, “I really feel that my involvement here is an intersection between my head and my heart. It is a story that I share with the participants having immigrated myself. I’m honored by the opportunity to serve on the Board of Directors.”

RoseWe spoke about her experience becoming an American citizen and gaining the right to vote.

“One of the benefits of becoming a citizen is the ability to vote. This is important to me because voting is more than a right. It’s a responsibility and an opportunity to contribute to the success of my community.”

For many natural-born citizens, voting is a right often taken for granted. For example, in the 2016 primary elections, only about 60% of eligible voters turned out to vote. With the 2020 elections less than 100 days away, it’s clear that each of us can help ensure the people in our lives are registered to vote and informed about election dates, polling places, and candidates.

For many new American citizens, they may have reservations about voting. They may need more support and outreach to register to vote and become engaged in the political process. For these folks, Rose has this to say.

“Immigrants who may not know much about the process should know that it is safe to vote here. Everybody’s vote counts. And I’d encourage them that voting is a way to make your voice be heard and be counted because, in the end, we are all impacted by the outcome of an election.”

Rose explains, “What matters to me is that everyone has the opportunities and the tools to be successful and that they face no barriers. We all have different views of what we need, and what success looks like to us. Based on that, we all have certain political issues that stand out to us. By voting, I can make a difference in shaping our community by participating in choosing our leaders.

Neighborhood House wants everyone to have the ability to shape their community through their vote and that’s why we dedicate resources to voter engagement. Right now we’re focused on promoting voter registration and informing the public on safe ways to vote during a pandemic.

“Neighborhood House is playing a significant role in educating members of our community about voting and we’re encouraging them to vote this year. We’ve done this before by registering participants, creating and sharing resources about voting, and running online campaigns through our website and social media. COVID-19 has challenged us this year, but we’re still doing everything we can to support voting in our community.”

Rose is right. Even though we aren’t able to physically help as many people register to vote this year, we’re providing written and video instructions, along with paper registration forms in a number of languages, to all our participants. We’ve shifted our efforts to digital communication and local partnerships to expand our reach. And we also created a webpage filled with helpful voting information, available in a number of languages, that participants can access to learn more. Our hope is that even though we’re all facing greater challenges to voting this year, that St. Paul and Minnesota will make all voters’ voices heard during the elections.

To end our conversations, we asked Rose the question of the hour … will she be voting this year?