The Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing (APAH), a community-based nonprofit developer in Arlington, VA, has made civic engagement and nonpartisan voter registration a core part of its general programming for the organization’s 15 properties with 1,300 homes. APAH has made an organizational commitment that all residents in its properties be registered to vote and that time and resources be dedicated to this effort. APAH is optimistic about achieving this goal and helping more of its residents vote this year.
APAH partners with local organizations and volunteers from groups like the NAACP, the League of Women Voters, and others in the community. The organization provides access to its properties so that trained voter registration volunteers can go door-to-door, and it puts tables in building lobbies for volunteers to perform in-person voter registration. These volunteers provide residents help in completing their voter registration forms and answering any questions they may have. APAH ensures this work is nonpartisan and nonpolitical; no stickers, political paraphernalia or other campaign-related materials can be distributed by volunteers. Voter registration volunteers make it as easy as possible for residents to understand why they need to vote and how to do so. Where possible, APAH handles the paperwork for voter registration and helps residents submit it.
One barrier faced by many residents is the time it takes to vote, and APAH understands that time is a commodity for its residents, who often work multiple jobs. In addition to voter registration, APAH posts in every property the rules and dates for early and absentee voting as well as information about where, when and how to vote. Information about voter registration, early and absentee voting, and polling places are included in all property events, like food distribution days.
APAH also understands all the supports low income residents need to vote on Election Day. As the election approaches, each property posts reminders about where polling places are located and phone numbers residents can call to arrange rides to the polls. On Election Day itself, the properties host parties to celebrate participating in the electoral process
Because some residents are non-citizens, APAH pairs its voter-registration work with a “know your rights” effort. Trained volunteers from local partners like Casa de Virginia are provided tables to help non-citizen residents learn about their rights, including paths to citizenship.
“Low income people don’t vote as much,” said Jose Quinonez, APAH’s director of community impact. “Yes, it’s because they are disenfranchised, and they don’t register. But they’re too busy too. This is an easy thing for us to do. It’s our way to say: we’re with you and we want to support you. We will help you know your rights. We will help you if you want to vote so you can vote. We hope that other nonprofit developers see this as part of their mission like we do. The more we facilitate civic engagement in their lives and the more we participate in the electoral process and are counted, the more we are advancing the issue of affordable housing.”
Moving forward, APAH will brainstorm new methods to engage its residents in the elections, such as considering the incorporation of voter registration in their resident welcome and intake processes.
Election Day is Tuesday, November 6, and NLIHC’s Our Homes, Our Votes website has tools and resources to help organizations engage in nonpartisan voter engagement efforts. The resources walk you through how to incorporate nonpartisan voter registration into your agency’s regular activities with residents, plan voter registration efforts, and bring voter registration drives into the communities you serve. Voter registration deadlines vary from state to state—and many are coming up soon. To find the voter registration deadlines in your state, go to: https://bit.ly/2PCNlB9