Indiana Daily Student

Local groups have voter literacy meeting

Three groups came together Saturday to revise a voter-literacy presentation that could mobilize minority populations in Bloomington and Monroe County.

The goal is to bring together members of three under-represented but large voting demographics — women, Hispanic and African-American citizens — to increase voter mobility, City of Bloomington liaison Araceli Gomez said.

Because the presentation was a first draft, few community members gathered to weigh in. Representatives from the Commission on Hispanic and Latino Affairs, the Commission on the Status of Black Males and the League of Women Voters made suggestions to improve the presentation and reach new demographics.

League of Women Voters President Kate Cruikshank led the presentation, which gave the voting basics.

Cruikshank said the goal was to end voter disenfranchisement, like when the 2005 photo ID law passed and non-drivers — many of them female — found themselves without a way to register in time for the election.

If a person doesn’t have a driver’s license, they can use a passport, student ID from a public university or a non-driver photo ID from the DMV, she said.

Maria Carrasquillo, the secretary for the Commission on Hispanic and Latino Affairs, said people who immigrate to the United States could come from a country with one political party or several.

“We know very well that people from different countries have a different concept of what the electoral process is,” she said. “People are going to say, ‘I’m here, I’m a citizen, I have a right to vote — what do I do?’”

Carrasquillo moved to the U.S. from Puerto Rico where she said immigrants learn from Puerto Rican officials that they cannot vote in a U.S. general election for five years.

That rule does not apply in the U.S., Carrasquillo said, but many people 
don’t know.

“I went through that myself,” she said. “There was a general election two years after I moved and I didn’t vote.”

The Commissions and League will meet again in September leading up to the general election, 
Gomez said.

Gracia Valliant, the chair of the Commission on Hispanic and Latino Affairs, said her concern was teaching people who are unfamiliar with the voting system or candidates how to gauge who would best represent their interests.

“When you vote, it seems like the general election is what you should care about, or the senators,” Valliant said. “But for where you live, who we choose for the local elections is going to affect us on a daily level.”

Valliant said she didn’t want voters to get into a booth and find unfamiliar names and positions on the ballots.

She added minorities who are unlikely to vote could sway elections.

“If you all voted, you will be noticed,” she said.

The presentation explained the difference between a primary and general election, who is eligible to vote, including people who have been released from jail after serving their prescribed sentences, and where to register online or in-person.

Valliant said the literacy meetings would also remain nonpartisan.

The commissions could use examples of issues that residents might have to motivate them to register and vote, but their main goal is education, she said.

“Our interest right now is as basic as it gets,” Carrasquillo said. “This is the one, two, three of when you get to a voting place.”

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