ACYPL Fellow Plans to Take Voter Engagement Lessons Home

By Jean Alia Robles May 26, 2016
Project Vote’s Amy Busefink presents on voter registration drive best practices in North Carolina. (Jean Alia Robles/Project Vote)
Project Vote’s Amy Busefink presents on voter registration drive best practices in North Carolina. (Jean Alia Robles/Project Vote)

This is my last week as a fellow at Project Vote and I could say that this was one of the most rewarding experiences I have had in the United States.

Last week, I was in North Carolina to attend the voters registration drive training that was facilitated by my Project Vote mentor, Amy Busefink. It was a three-day training for community organizations. The training was all about how to conduct an effective and efficient voter registration drive (VRD), including information on how to work with with election officials, develop voter registration drive sites, recruit canvassers, supervise registration, and most importantly, implement quality control. It is important to make sure that organizations that are planning to conduct VRDs should be well-trained and well-informed about current election laws since VRDs are double-edged swords: as much as it is an effective means to increase voter registration—especially for underrepresented citizens— it can also lead to lawsuits and loss of organization’s credibility to the public.

Since this is my last post before my fellowship ends, I would like to talk about my follow-up project that I will start when I get back home. My project is to organize a nonprofit, nonpartisan, volunteer-driven organization called Let’s Vote Philippines that is dedicated to educating Filipino citizens and bringing social collaboration to the process of making voting decisions. It will use social media as a platform to create and share information and opinions in order to have intelligent and logical conversations among voters. One of the missions of the organization is to ensure that everyone will have the passion to participate in the electoral process and not just be a passive observer.

“I believe in empowering voters. Politics are too precious to just leave it on the hands of politicians.”

I have mentioned in my first blog post that wealthier Filipino voters are discouraged to vote due to apathy while lower-income voters are encouraged to vote because of “vote buying” from unscrupulous politicians. Let’s Vote Philippines’ objective is for the former to participate more in political discussions and, eventually, in voting. We also hope to empower and educate Filipino voters so they won’t be prone to “vote buying” and other problematic electoral tactics.

In the last national election, it was the first time that the Commission on Elections and other national television networks organized a series of live presidential and vice-presidential debates. It was a good move, and should be available for the next elections since it helped voters get to know their candidates. Let’s Vote Philippines will initiate political debates on the local level because it is also important that voters get to know their local candidates, and not only the national ones. In this way, it will decrease patronage politics and candidates winning just because they have the most familiar names, notwithstanding their competency for legislation or governance.

I believe in empowering voters. Politics are too precious to just leave it on the hands of politicians. Good governance starts in the polling precincts where voters cast their votes and choose their future leaders. A voter should feel that their future and that of their children’s lies in that ballot. An empowered voter is the key to a true democracy.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views or position of Project Vote.