It was Friday morning before Election Day.
My foot anxiously tapped on the floor as I considered the potential impacts of our local and national races. ReWA’s team of six voter outreach volunteers—who spoke Vietnamese, Somali, and Arabic—were in the final days of calling new voters. They had all attended ReWA’s online training in early October where they learned how to support new voters register online, answer questions about ballot initiatives, and troubleshoot last-minute requests to register. They also managed a phone/text-banking platform to help reach voters without computer access. These texts shared information about registration deadlines, maps of nearby ballot drop box locations, and step-by-step directions to Vote Centers.
One volunteer, Tawane, a Somali gentleman who came to Washington state as a refugee, said he volunteered with ReWA to stay connected with his community. “I felt frustrated [being stuck at home] because of Covid-19, so I learned how to instruct voting by phone. This has built my connection and strengthened me.” Despite being a busy graduate student, Tawane called 25 Somali clients in just one week.
Anh, another ReWA volunteer, phone banked all the way from Chicago. She shared, “My family are Vietnamese immigrants. Most of the time they don’t think these elections affect them. The more I get involved in politics the more I realize that it directly affects us, and we have to do our part.” Anh smiled, “This was my second federal election since I became a U.S. citizen and it was empowering for me to support people who were in my position before – to be a voter.”
She isn’t the only one: observing volunteers mobilize their families and communities lifted my spirits in the tense weeks leading up to the election. One new voter who escaped civil war in her home country spoke with immense pride about becoming a U.S. citizen and casting her vote. “I’ve never had a chance to vote, until now.”
ReWA was one of 39 community-based organizations that received a grant from King County’s Voter Education Fund. Our goal was to help reduce inequities in voting access for refugee and immigrant communities with limited English proficiency (LEP) in South King County. In total, ReWA reached over 400 new voters before election day.
Tawane remembered the last call he made before Election Day, to a voter in Kent. “When I asked her (in Somali) if she received the blue envelope for voting, she enthusiastically answered, ‘Yes! Yes!!'” In that moment, he felt proud. “The local Somali community is voting to show their citizenship and proceeding with their civic duty.”
Thank you to all of our staff and volunteers, past and present, who continue to uplift the voices of our immigrant and refugee community.
[box]If you are interested in volunteering with ReWA’s future voter outreach campaigns or as a teaching assistant in online citizenship classes, check out the volunteer page or email email@example.com.[/box]