With Election Day on Tuesday, several nonpartisan organizations in the Baltimore area have revved up efforts to encourage voter turnout.
The initiatives range from driving voters to polling places to catering hot meals at registration sites and block parties. Here are some of the ways groups are working to get people to the polls.
Founded in January, BaltimoreVotes has facilitated nine early-voting parties with local partners throughout the city and will help coordinate about 70 other community celebrations on Election Day, spokesmen Eean Logan and Sam Novey said.
At these gatherings, Logan said, volunteers have encouraged eligible voters to register and helped people get rides to the polls. On Election Day, the events will feature food trucks, live music, bounce houses, carnival-style food and other family-friendly activities, and organizers will continue to assist with helping voters get transportation as needed, Novey said.
“It’s a friendly interaction with democracy,” Logan said, adding that research conducted by the organization #VoteTogether found turnout increased after the start of such programs across the country. Voters can search for nearby events on #VoteTogether’s website.
Maryland Communities United
Maryland Communities United shuttled voters to the polls during early voting and has distributed a phone number that people in need of rides can call, spokeswoman Nabeehah Azeez said.
It’s hosted a few community celebrations with breakfast or barbecue. She added that the group has also sent out daily text alerts reminding its contacts to vote.
Azeez said Communities United has paid special attention to ex-offenders, educating them about their voting rights over the past couple of months, and have set up tables throughout the city manned by volunteers who can pass on useful information.
“They have a right to the process,” Azeez, said. “In our state, when people commit a crime and they get re-entered into the system, they still face obstacle after obstacle.”
The group says people needing a ride to the polls on Election Day should call 443-338-3768.
Out for Justice
The nonprofit advocacy and activism foundation Out for Justice serves people in and out of the criminal justice system and co-led a coalition that helped restore voting rights to some 40,000 Maryland residents in 2016, spokeswoman Nicole Hanson said.
The group has implemented face-to-face educational efforts at probation and parole sites, created and distributed signs, coordinated with BaltimoreVotes to offer free rides to the polls at community celebrations in Baltimore and in Prince George’s County, registered some eligible inmates to vote, and held block parties.
On Election Day, the group plans to hold two parties in Baltimore.
“It’s not our job to tell them who to vote for, but inform them about every step in the process,” Hanson said. “We have to come up with more innovative ways to engage with people.”
Black Girls Vote
Launched in 2015, Black Girls Vote aims to drive all eligible voters to the polls, with an emphasis on black women between 18 and 25 years of age. On the first day of early voting, the organization partnered with Tumblr and rented out a bus, transporting hundreds of students as well as other voters to polls.
On Election Day, the group plans to cater a “ballots and breakfast” event for senior citizens who vote at the Poe Homes polling place in West Baltimore, said Nyki Robinson, the founder and CEO of Black Girls Vote. Members of the group also intend to mobilize 2,018 or more voters by Election Day using social media, according to the group’s website.