As the October 9th deadline to register to vote in Texas approaches, students at the University of Houston are working hard to make sure everyone’s voice is heard in the November midterm elections. The Graduate College of Social Work Voter Engagement and Political Justice Initiative is partnering with Houston-area community organizations that focus on non-partisan voter engagement with marginalized minority communities.
Expanding access to voting is integral to social work practice, according to Suzanne Pritzker, associate professor and project leader. The GCSW has provided deputy voter registrar training for more than 100 students, faculty and staff to increase voter registration in Houston and beyond.
It’s particularly important to engage with underserved communities, said Pritzker, because voting empowers individuals and communities, increases representation, impacts policy outcomes and challenges long-standing disenfranchisement efforts disproportionately experienced by minority communities.
“There can be a lot of confusion about the voting process, so we are giving students and community members important information about voting rights,” said Pritzker. “The key to this is engagement. We want to knock down barriers keeping citizens from exercising their right to vote.”
Deputized students have been encouraged to volunteer with the following partner organizations in voter registration drives and other voter outreach activities: Mi Familia Vota; Houston Justice; OCA – Asian Pacific American Advocates of Greater Houston; Emgage USA – Houston Chapter; Texas Organizing Project; The Metropolitan Organization.
“We want our students to learn about the process first hand and gain the skills and confidence to go out and register voters throughout their careers,” said Pritzker. “This is an opportunity to help people meaningfully find their voice in society.”
Even after the deadline to register to vote passes, the newly deputized students will have opportunities for voter education activities through election day on November 6. The Voter Engagement and Political Justice Initiative is supported by the New York Community Trust and the Council on Social Work Education.