Guest Blogger Geoff Millard
Director of Special Projects at Friendship Place
I remember Election Day in 1984. I wasn’t even four years old and my father took me into the voting booth with him. I can’t remember much beyond my father’s size in that booth. He was a hulking man who would tease me for being small, even as I became a grown man. What is very clear to me, though, is the fact that it was important for him to show his son that he voted. That was the first time Dad took me with him into the voting booth. In ’88, ’92, and ’96 he continued the tradition. Even in those moody teenage years, when we could barely stand to be in the same room, we always went to vote together.
So when I could finally vote myself in 2000, I took him to the polls in my car. I signed the register and went into the booth. When I’d made my selection and pulled the lever that swished the curtains back, there was my Dad. It was only the second time in my life I’d seen a tear in his eye. My father died years ago, and I have never missed an election, thanks to him. I’ve cast a ballot for both president and school board with the same sense of civic pride.
I was, therefore, personally very excited when the Coalition of Housing and Homeless Organizations (COHHO) started a voter registration drive this year. This was yet another chance for Friendship Place to help our participants make a lasting impact on our community, and our nation.
In my years of advocacy work I have often heard people say, “poor people don’t vote so poor people don’t matter to politicians.” That is something that I doubt has ever been true and something that I try to ensure people know will never be the case.
Early voting in the District of Columbia opened on October 22, Election Day itself being November 6. Within this 15-day time period, I have made it my mission to ensure that every person within the Friendship Place community — especially participants — with the desire to vote gets out to their local polling place and walks away with one of those “I VOTED” stickers.
We are all affected by the decisions made by the political establishment, but our homeless and formerly homeless participants’ very lives could be risked by cuts made, sometimes on a whim. It is for this exact reason that our participants should have a say in who gets to vote on those cuts. This happens by getting all of us to cast a ballot in every election that we can.
100% voter turnout will take a collective effort. We need to make sure everyone knows where to cast a ballot and organize rides to the polls. COHHO has worked for months to get participants registered to vote – registration has not closed but must now be done in person – and now it’s time to make it happen.
When I step out of the voting booth again this year I’ll think of my dad. Then I’ll join members of the Friendship Place staff in operating a shuttle service to the polls for anyone who needs it. What will you do on November 6th?
Anyone interested in learning more about COHHO & Friendship Place’s “Voting Matters” efforts, contact Geoff Millard.