Local Elections Statewide News

Black women-led organization among groups which helped boost recent record turnout

Featured photo: Tameka Ramsey with Michigan Voices along with Black Youth Votes and Oakland Forward

Written by Tanya Terry

The Courier recently had an opportunity to speak with Sommer Foster, co-executive director of Michigan Voices, about the organization’s role in the recent election turnout.

According to the unofficial election results, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson announced, Michigan’s election on Tuesday, Nov. 8, set a record voter turnout.

“I’m really excited that we saw people willing to engage in this election,” Foster said. “In the past, we’ve had not-so-great turnouts during midterm elections. But I love the thought that people seem to be engaged. They got out there and voted. They took advantage of some of the protections passed in 2018, like same-day registration. So, we’re seeing more people engaged in what’s going on in our state.”

Sommer Foster

Michigan Voices led an extensive get-out-the-vote program in multiple cities across Michigan, including Flint.

“What we did is we reminded people that the election was Tuesday, Nov. 8 and told them to get out and vote,” Foster explained. “We reiterated to them what was on the ballot and that they needed to have their voices heard.”

Michigan Voices worked with their partner organizations and knocked on doors within communities, making phone calls to provide information about the elections. The organization’s members let community members know when the polls were open. They also informed them if they did not have an identification card, they could sign an affidavit to vote and that felons are allowed to vote in Michigan.

“We made almost 7 million attempts through various communication methods to contact voters this election cycle.”

Amy Belfer with volunteer from Detroit Action

Michigan Voices provides training throughout the year. They provide deep canvassing training. According to the Deep Canvas Institute, deep canvassing is talking with strangers – in person or over the phone – about hopes, fears and aspirations. Michigan Voices has meaningful conversations with the voters about what issues they care about.

Michigan Voices also provides training on phone banking and text banking.

“We also provide tools and resources for the partners to do that work. So, we provide them with the literature. We provide them with PPE (personal protective equipment) if necessary. We also provide them with funding.”

What is Michigan Voices?

The organization started back in 2005. It is an affiliate of state voices, a national organization that began in Michigan in 2005.

Its purpose is to allow progressive, non-profit organizations to work together and collaborate.

Why is voter turnout so crucial to Michigan Voices?

Foster stressed it’s important for people to get engaged in their communities to build power on a local level. 

Michigan Voices believes every election matters. They do work on presidential elections, midterm elections and municipal elections.

What are the next steps for Michigan Voices?

According to Foster, Michigan Voices will continue to engage partner organizations and work with them on issues that are important to their communities. They will work to ensure voters understand their rights at the polls and when their elections are coming up. They will continue to do what they can to encourage voting across the state.

 

Volunteers from APIA VOTE-MI and Embrace the Rock along with Amy Belfer and Emily Clancy from Michigan Voices

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