By Jessica Jones, AmeriCorps Multimedia Journalist
For the last few months, phones have been ringing and buzzing with election news and reminders to vote. Behind those updates are people you know well — your neighbors!
In Brighton Park, our partner Brighton Park Neighborhood Council (BPNC) has been educating community members on the importance of voting in the upcoming election. To do this, they created a Get Out To Vote (GOTV) campaign that launched in July.
Their campaign encourages community members to register to vote and vote early. BPNC is also aiding people in locating their poll places, creating a vote plan and preparing them to vote by mail or in person during this pandemic.
The main message of this campaign is to go out and vote: vote for yourself, vote for your community and vote for others.
Voter education is very important to BPNC, United Way of Metro Chicago and our partners around the region. Teaching the community the importance of voting and how it will impact their communities is vital to evoking change. It’s critical that neighbors are informed about the language and vocabulary surrounding voting so they feel empowered to vote.
One way residents can create change this year is by voting to create an equitable state tax system that is fair for working class people, said Esmeralda Montesinos, a community member who has worked with BPNC on the campaign. Esmeralda is a Democracy Project Fellow with Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights
The Fair Tax Amendment is an important topic covered in BPNC’s GOTV campaign. Resident volunteers are encouraging people to vote for the Fair Tax amendment, which would allow the state to tax wealthier people at a higher rate than lower income people. BPNC and its GOTV volunteers let voters know what the amendment is and how it would impact the community.
“Vote ‘yes’ on the Fair Tax Amendment because it will help our communities. It will make a big difference in the community,” Esmeralda said. “Democracy cannot work if people don’t vote.”
United Way of Metro Chicago invests in organizations like BPNC because they do this important voter outreach work and center residents, like Esmeralda, within it.
Residents in the community were able to take the wheel during the GOTV campaign. It’s important to BPNC that residents are involved because they represent the community. They represent the culture of the community and create meaningful connections with their neighbors.
While working on the GOTV campaign, Esmeralda had the time to reflect on why this work is so important to her.
“I want to help the community I am a part of. We have been oppressed and failed by the system so civic engagement is used to empower our community members,” Esmeralda said. “Educating them makes sure community members are aware of the importance of voting.”