Immigrants Vote! Campaign: Register NY Voters

Oct 11, 2018

The New York Immigration Coalition is in the midst of its Immigrants Vote! campaign. Alliance organizations have been working throughout the state to register voters by Friday’s deadline for the November 6 general election. By registering more people to vote, the campaign strives to increase voter turnout.

The New York Immigration Coalition has embarked upon voter registration drives for some 15 years, but the formalized, nonpartisan Immigrants Vote! campaign is in its third year. Murad Awawdeh is vice president of advocacy with the New York City-based NYIC.

“This is probably our largest campaign we’ve ever run on the immigrant votes campaign side,” says Awawdeh. “So we’re really excited that we were able to expand it to the entire state in a really meaningful way, where historically it’s been because it wasn’t funded as well as it is this year that we were only able to support a few organizations and, this year, we’re supporting over 15 organizations across the state.”

Of the up to five organizations in the Hudson Valley, one is Community Voices Heard, where Juanita Lewis is Hudson Valley organizing director.

“So we were focused mainly in Newburgh and Poughkeepsie. And we saw that in low-income communities and communities of color there are folks that are under-registered,” Lewis says. “We are encountering folks who were formerly incarcerated that were paroled, and so now they have the, were given the ability to register to vote, and then being able to go to swearing-in, immigration swearing-in ceremonies, citizen swearing-in ceremonies and meeting folks who are now American citizens and getting them registered right away so they’re able to vote.”

Juan Flores is Columbia County Sanctuary Movement coordinating committee member. He says targeting new citizens certainly is one aspect of the campaign.

“I recently met a naturalized citizen who says, oh yeah, I have that form at home but I just haven’t gotten around to filling it out,” Flores says. “So we have been trying to make voter registration available to everybody by just having the forms readily available.”

Lewis says the follow-up continues after November 6.

“After individuals vote, wanting to do even deeper follow-up with them around what is civic engagement, the different levels of government, who represents at the different levels, what kind of issues do they work on,” Lewis says.

Awawdeh says partner groups are having more success this year in registering voters.

“Organizations that have historically had a difficult time registering voters have surpassed their goal amount of registration and are actually doing above and beyond with registering new voters,” Awawdeh says.

Registration is key, says Awawdeh. So is encouraging voter turnout.

“So once the newly registered voters are registered, we add them to our voter database, and then we engage them to not only register them, but we want to engage them via phone or knocking on their door or texting them to ensure that they have a plan to go out to vote and that they actually do vote on the day of election,” says Awawdeh.

Again, Flores.

“A part of it is having conversations with them about how their vote matters,” Flores says. “And it does have an impact on our community.”

He says he impresses upon voters that policy impacts their undocumented immigrant neighbors. Flores notes the large number of farmworkers in Columbia County, and was ensuring outreach in such areas as Kinderhook and Valatie. Here’s NYIC’s Awawdeh.

“At the New York Immigration Coalition, we’ve registered over 700,000 voters in the past 15 years. We have engaged over 1.5 million voters to go out and vote in that same time frame," Awawdeh says. "So we’re hoping to continue to build upon that.”

He says the goal this year is about 25,000 new registrants. Awawdeh says he is confident the campaign will exceed that. Meantime, Lewis says some topics have recurred during the Immigrants Vote! campaign.

“Definitely people are talking about housing. People are talking about jobs,” says Lewis. “Definitely at the federal level, and even at the state, people are talking about health care, transportation, public assistance,” says Lewis. “Social safety net issues are definitely coming up in different ways.”

Other Hudson Valley partners are Nobody Leaves Mid-Hudson and YWCA Orange County. The voter registration deadline in New York is October 12.