A new Indiana voter outreach program seeks to register and verify more Hoosier voters for upcoming elections.
Brandon Evans, one of the co-founders of the organization, said Hoosiers Organized People Energized, or HOPE, is a nonpartisan and nonprofit organization looking to help streamline the process of registering to vote. In partnership with Vote.org, people can register or check their registration status directly from the HOPE website.
“One of the things that we thought was missing across Indiana was really bringing energy back to the idea of making sure everyone’s voice was heard,” Evans said.
He said one of the reasons he and Arielle Brandy, the other co-founder, started HOPE was to mobilize voters and invest in registering and verifying voters, something he thought Indiana has been lacking.
“One of our missions is to fill that gap,” Evans said. “We believe that when everyone’s voice is heard that we all do better and that we all win.”
HOPE, which launched March 1, has a goal of verifying or registering 100,000 people in Indiana by the end of 2021 and 500,000 people for the 2024 election cycle, Evans said.
With the pandemic, Evans said it is a largely online process to connect with voters, but HOPE is also reaching out to other organizations to connect with them. In the future, he said they hope to have more in-person events.
Indiana was ranked 42nd nationally at 61.4% in terms of voter turnout rate for the 2020 presidential election. This places it below the U.S. voter turnout average of 66.7% for all states, according to Statista.
Brandy said this poor level of turnout was their motivation for getting more people registered to vote.
“Yes, we want to be able to get folks registered to vote but we also want to empower people to understand the importance of why they should be voting,” Brandy said.
She said she has seen many people, even long-time voters, get turned away at the polls because their registration was canceled or no longer active. HOPE, she said, aims to combat this and work to make sure voters know to continually check their status to ensure they are active voters when it is time to vote.
Brandy formerly worked in the St. Joseph County voting registration office and said she has seen first-hand why people’s registration applications get denied. With this background, she said she hopes to inform voters how to make sure their application doesn’t get turned away.
“It could be as simple as you forgetting to put the last four digits of your social security number or it could be you leave off a number on your address,” Brandy said.
She said HOPE is also looking for any changes being made to statewide election laws just in case they need to relay that information back to voters, especially those who may not have read or heard about the change.
“We are an organization that is paying attention to what is happening at the Statehouse,” Brandy said.
Emily Alford, head of government information, maps and microform services at IU Libraries, said more people are consuming information online due to expanding media options. She said this increases the risk of people being exposed to misleading information about voting and how the process works.
“Voting literacy is a real effort that’s been made, especially in recent years, for folks to really learn how to find valuable information and how to know for themselves if something is valid,” Alford said.
This is why voting literacy and knowing what information is reliable is important for future voters, she said. HOPE aims to create these more educated voters, the founders said.