Monday, June 30, 2008

Uniting for Change

Obama's suggestion to host a Unite for Change event triggered my community organizing imagination. Though I'm not big on hosting an event like that for a bunch of people who are already sold on Obama, I am interested in encouraging more people to register and actually vote. I decided I would host the event for the young adults I know...many of whom will be first-time voters this election. I called on one of the college students who said she'd be interested to learn more about the process to help me organize.

To prepare for the event, I began looking up statistics.

As in many inner city communities across the nation, our wealthier and whiter northern part of the city votes at a higher percentage than our lower-income, highly minority southern sector. This is what I found:

  • In northern Dallas, 31.61% (166,848) of all eligible voters show up to vote at the last presidential election

  • In southern Dallas, only 18.77% (63,816) of all eligible voters showed up

What was even more sobering...and disturbing...was to find that my neighborhood, 75223, the turnout was much lower...only 8.51%. (source:

So, instead of creating a Unite for Change--Obama event, I contacted the Dallas County Elections Department to see if they would agree to educate and deputize everyone. Possibly because of our former partnerships with them, they agreed to come out on a Saturday evening.

Tiffany and I began spreading the word.

Deputization party and house!

She sent out facebook messages; I sent out emails and text messages. Several said they would come or at least try. I also decided to invite some of my friends who are active and engaged voters who truly believe in the political process in hopes of stimulating conversation.

Saturday evening, 18 people showed up. It was a wonderful mix of age, ethnicity, activism, and neighborhoods.

Most who came had voted at least once; however, a few were now convicted felons who are "on papers" and are not eligible to vote until they are off parole, but can help encourage others to register. Everyone came with the desire of gaining more information and understanding how they could help get out the vote amongst the people they connect with on a daily basis.

You never know what information someone will pick up and pass along. I like to call it the "ripple effect."

(Thanks to Dave Herman for some of the featured photos)
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