With the 2014-midterm elections around the corner we’re focusing this month’s Organizations Making a Difference on the Alameda County Community Food Bank (ACCFB); highlighting their voter registration and education initiatives. ACCFB first led a successful voter registration campaign before the 2012 presidential election. This coming November midterm election is their second effort at getting out the vote. They were particularly concerned that only 26% of registered voters in Alameda County voted in the June preliminary elections earlier this year, so ACCFB staff and volunteers have been registering and reminding people to vote so that more Alameda residents hit the polls this November 4th—because they believe that peoples’ votes can help eliminate hunger and poverty in the county.
The ACCFB engages in multiple strategies to make sure that every eligible voter is registered. From offering voter registration training, spreading the message to register via social media, and registering people to vote- both in person and online, ACCFB knows it’s all about meeting the people where they’re at. Staff and volunteers register people while they wait in line at food distribution sites. They also created an action station in their community engagement center, where the food bank volunteers are able to register online. Staff plans to further develop the action center as a place for voter education and engagement on particular bills across California.
Ensuring that voters know their rights and are educated about issues and candidates is key in getting a high voter turnout rate. A couple years ago ACCFB found that people didn’t know where their voting location was. So staff looked it up, and when it turned out some voters didn’t actually have a location ACCFB let them know they’re able to go to City Hall to vote. For the 2014 elections, the food bank will be providing non-partisan educational pamphlets on local and state bills and how they affect the food bank. With last year’s gutting of the 1965 Voting Rights Act by the U.S. Supreme Court and rampant voter suppression happening across the country, it’s critical that citizens are heading to the polls informed.
Shanti Prasad, ACCFB’s Community Mobilization Coordinator, expressed on CFJC’s September Public Policy Call the importance of community-based organizations and non-profits engaging in voter education and registration. Underscoring that it is legal for organizations to offer the opportunity and encourage people to vote, and that the county registrant’s office can help organizations understand what they can and cannot do in terms of civic engagement. ACCFB didn’t receive specific funding for voter engagement activities- they do it because they know it’s important and because people’s voices matter.