BY AISHA ADAMS AND KATE PETT
As Leila Barazandeh, community organizer for the Campaign for Southern Equality, notes, “Voting in an election year is often the first step in lifelong civic engagement.” Yet, historically disenfranchised groups like young people and Black and brown voters are still underrepresented in the voting process and face ongoing challenges to their participation. The city of Asheville is more diverse than our region as a whole, and we have an opportunity to ensure that more voices are heard and a greater diversity of perspectives is reflected in our local, state and national politics. A new coalition of nonprofits, businesses and community leaders is working together with one goal in mind: to increase the number of people in Asheville who vote.
VoteAVL is an Asheville-focused campaign that seeks to inspire and inform groups that have faced barriers to voting. We recognize that turning out new voters is a heavy lift that many locals have worked tirelessly to address. As a coalition of partners focused on addressing the inequities in access to power and participation, we are developing new tools and approaches to reaching potential voters. The VoteAVL campaign, “Your Power, Your Ballot,” includes:
• A video series with motivational messages and critical how-tos about registering, restoring voting rights after incarceration and participating in early voting that centers the voices of Black and brown community leaders, formerly incarcerated individuals and youths. Videos can be viewed at VoteAVL.org, VoteAVL’s Facebook page and through the social media channels of numerous partners.
• The Voting Power Pledge for local businesses and nonprofits makes voting information accessible in the workplace and ensures that employees have time off to vote. So far, more than 35 local businesses have taken the pledge. (See the complete list at VoteAVL.org.)
• The VoteAVL.org website shares clear, concise information that is easily viewable on phones for portable information you can take with you to the polls.
Partners in the VoteAVL campaign include Aisha Adams Media, the Asheville View, Asheville City Schools Foundation, Campaign for Southern Equality, Children First/Communities in Schools Buncombe, Democracy NC, Grind AVL, My Daddy Taught Me That, New Mount Olive Missionary Baptist Church, Racial Justice Coalition, Patton Avenue Pet Co., Thrive Asheville, the YWCA and community leaders Jasmine Washington and Libby Kyles.
The VoteAVL campaign is coordinated by Thrive Asheville (thriveavl.org), a group that works across sectors to increase our city’s ability to solve problems through collaboration. Thrive Asheville is an initiative of UNC Asheville and is led by a diverse group of leaders. Its mission is to bring together people from across lines of difference to learn about our city’s toughest challenges and build collaborative, equitable and sustainable solutions.
VoteAVL will host an Early Voting Kickoff at Rabbit Rabbit (75 Coxe Ave.) on Thursday, Oct. 15, 6-8 p.m. The public is invited, and free snacks and informational tools will be available. The campaign’s videos will be shown on a 20-foot LED screen (think Jumbotron) featuring local influencers.
J Hackett, Grind AVL co-owner and Thrive Asheville Steering Group member, says this in a video on restoring voting rights: “Don’t let your history stop you from making a future.” Let’s rewrite the future of our community with a historic voter turnout.
Aisha Adams is an influencer with a heart for community economic development who champions social change advocates, thought leaders and courageous disruptors. After many years in Asheville’s nonprofit sector, Kate Pett is currently building cross-sector collaborations as director of Thrive Asheville to innovate, fill gaps and support a more sustainable and equitable Asheville.