Community organizers armed with clipboards and Tootsie Rolls impressed upon minority voters the importance of casting their ballots during an outreach effort at the Rosa Parks Hempstead Transit Center Thursday, greeting straphangers with candy and asking them to pledge to vote Nov. 5.
Organizers chose levity over earth-shattering repercussions if votes aren’t cast by donning spooky masks and comical hats for Halloween. Still, they tried not to downplay the significance of casting a ballot on Election day, which is less than a week away.
“We have a chance to make a difference this year,” said Diane Goins, whose group New York Communities for Change also works with the Long Island Civic Engagement Table, which spearheaded the event. “We will have a seat at the table and our voices will be heard.”
The group of about a dozen chanted “Trick or vote!” and “The people united will never be defeated!” outside the bustling transit center as commuters on the bus line looked on.
Daniel Altschuler of the Long Island Civic Engagement Table said the afternoon event was part of a broader outreach effort to engage minority voters in areas dominated by low and middle-income residents, such as Hempstead, Elmont, Brentwood, Central Islip and Gordon Heights. They hope to collect at least 10,000 signatures and to engage 25,000 residents before the day’s over.
“We haven’t been respected yet,” Goins said of low-income residents. Many in her community are concerned about affordable housing, jobs, cuts to children services and foreclosures, she said.
James Boone of Hempstead was one of the first to take the pledge, but said he makes sure to get to the polls every year.
“When you go out and vote you’re able to change things,” he said. “I always vote.”
The 30-year-old Hempstead resident said he’s concerned about the amount people who are either homeless or living in shelters.
“You have to know who you’re voting for,” Boone said.
Organizers don’t try to influence voters decisions by telling them who to vote for, Goins noted, adding that they should educate themselves about each and every candidate on the ballot.
Minority organizations have registered more than 11,000 voters this year. They plan on going door-to-door from now until Election Day to inform people about their polling sites and to secure more pledges.