VOTERISE works to ensure that all Utahns are able tocan exercise their right to voteSep 02, 2020 16h06 ● By Drew Crawford
VOTERISE volunteers help register voters during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo courtesy Hope Zitting-Goeckeritz)
By Drew Crawford | [email protected]
With persistent misinformation about voting being spread online, and daily changes to the electoral process being made due to COVID-19, it can be hard to know how to participate in this year’s presidential election.
Despite these challenges, VOTERISE, a nonpartisan 501(c)(3), is just as committed as ever to helping the public register to vote and navigate all of the obstacles that one might face in preparing for an election.
“Our main demographics are those who historically and currently have been left out of the electoral process,” Hope Zitting-Goeckeritz, the executive director of VOTERISE explained. “That includes 18- to 29-year-olds, as well as underrepresented communities: women, black, indigenous, people of color, impoverished communities, LGBTQIA+.”
Zitting-Goeckeritz emphasized that the organization takes a multipronged approach to electoral participation to ensure increased voter turnout. First, the group educates the community and registers them. VOTERISE will then follow up with registrants and help them to stay informed come election time.
“Once they get registered, that is when the other part of our approach comes in. So, registering to vote is great and all, but it doesn’t really do that much if people don’t actually turnout to vote,” Zitting-Goeckeritz said.
Right before every election, VOTERISE will send out a text and email containing a nonpartisan voting guide to every voter that they have registered that is personalized to their address. The guide also includes the nearest polling locations, information on when to mail your ballot, and the platform of the candidates on the ticket.
“It really helps that all of this information is in one place, because so many candidates make it so hard to find even their website,” Zitting-Goeckeritz said. “It’s just getting rid of that barrier of spending all that time doing detective work on the Internet.”
During COVID-19, VOTERISE has had to get creative with their strategies on how to reach the voters as their events have been canceled. Instead of doing presentations at universities and schools the group has turned to targeted ads, videos that teachers can show to their students, and partner organizations.
The organization has also continued to use its digital registration platforms including text to vote and its website.
At the time of writing, the details on how voting will take place this fall are still being finalized by the state legislature. Zitting-Goeckeritz continues to stay on top of the current news cycle so that she can monitor public discourse and identify any issues that need to be addressed.
Utah is known for being a vote by mail state, and Zitting-Goeckeritz wants anyone that is concerned about voting in person because of COVID-19 to know that voting by mail can be fully trusted.
“We want to assure people that we’ve been doing this for several years. It’s safe, it’s secure, we work with other election officials,” Zitting-Goeckeritz said, noting that VOTERISE partnered with the Weber County Election Office to make a video on election security.
Zitting-Goeckeritz believes that much of the misinformation currently being spread about mail-in voting is a result of the public not knowing how the process works. For voters who are skeptical of election fraud Zitting-Goeckeritz recommends watching the content that VOTERISE has produced as well as talking with the Salt Lake County Clerk’s office in order to stay informed.
Additionally, VOTERISE plans to update its registrants electronically on how to vote as the legislature finalizes its plans.
VOTERISE is the only organization solely dedicated to helping individuals in the State of Utah register and turn out to vote. Founded in 2017, the organization has registered over 25,000 Utahns to date and has partnered with 17 other nonprofits. VOTERISE allows volunteers to help register people to vote. Volunteers are trained on voting registration laws and given their own kit with resources to help. All videos mentioned in this article can be found on the VOTERISE YouTube channel. You can also check and update your voter registration on www.voterise.org.