Voter Registration in Affordable Housing
Volunteers from the League of Women Voters, Greater Portland Immigrant Welcome Center, and Common Power (a national nonprofit focused on voter justice) visited Avesta Housing properties throughout Maine in September and October to help Avesta residents understand the voting process.
Armed with voter registration cards, absentee ballot request forms, and a strong commitment to participatory democracy, volunteers knocked on 1,680 doors over the course of six weeks. In addition to 68 voter registrations and 248 absentee ballot requests, the volunteers spoke directly with 952 Avesta residents about the importance and logistics of making their voices heard in the upcoming election.
Avesta believes strongly in the importance of civic engagement and increasing access for low-income people. Avesta and its partners were committed to a nonpartisan experience that made the voting process accessible to all, regardless of background or political affiliation. Research shows that these efforts are critically important:
- The Pew Research Center found that 94% of the most financially secure Americans were registered to vote, while only 54% of the least financially secure were registered.
- Further, the Census Bureau found a strong correlation between income and voter turnout of Americans already registered to vote. Only 25% of registered voters making under $10,000 per year voted. In contrast, families earning $150,000 or more each year have the highest voter turnout, at 57%.
- According to a Caltech/MIT survey of eligible voters who did not cast a ballot in 2008, structural challenges like busyness, illness, administrative problems with registering (for example, lack of an ID, unsure where to send registration card), and transportation problems created barriers for low-income households. (Caltech/MIT Voting Technology Project, “Measuring Election Performance”, 12/11/2009)
By Christine Martin, Avesta Housing Resident Service Coordinator