Vote

If there is a silver lining to the current challenging political climate, it’s this: People on both sides of the aisle are becoming more civically engaged as they look to have an impact on politicians who too often seem disconnected from the people they serve.

A Key Biscayne woman is at the forefront of that movement in Miami-Dade County, by starting the GoVoteMiami campaign to help educate, register and turn out voters.

Christina Bracken said March is GoVoteMiami’s Voter Education and Registration Month, and her grassroots organization is going all out to make it easy for people to get involved. She said GoVoteMiami is demonstrating why voting is important is crucial, using numbers to make it very clear that every vote counts. President Bush won Florida by 537 votes – and with that the presidency in 2000. In the last elections, she said, 62 million voters voted for one candidate, 65 million voters voted for the other, but 92 million registered voters did not vote.

City of Miami Mayor Francis Suarez has endorsed the effort, and various entities have jumped onboard to help Bracken host voter registration events. Leading up to the November election, The Islander News is partnering with GoVoteMiami to provide local, county and state election information to the public.

Bracken said GoVoteMiami is a non-partisan, nonprofit organization that is focusing on the heart of politics: the local level.

“While the politics of Washington D.C. are important, what affects our lives more directly and in much greater detail are our local politics,” she said. “But the number of registered voters that actually participate in local elections and local politics is pretty sad.”

Bracken said turnout in local elections averages under 20 percent. She wants to change that.

“In order for democracy to work, we need to get people back involved in becoming and being voters. What we see is democracy doesn’t work if we’re not participating – we’re abdicating to people we think have our best interest,” she said. “Today many people do not feel well represented by their representatives.

That’s true whether a person identifies as a Democrat or Republican, Bracken said.

Therefore, GoVoteMiami aims to help residents make their voices heard at the ballot box, but does not get involved with campaigning for candidates and issues.

“We mainly focus on the mechanics of voting (When? Where?  How? Who?) and want to ensure citizens understand how, for example, ‘closed primaries’ or your ‘party affiliation’ on your voter registration affects who can vote (and who cannot),” Bracken said.

March’s all-out push will give citizens the chance to register at dozens of businesses, organization meetings, fairs and festivals, schools, houses of worship, etc. throughout Miami-Dade County.

Locally, they’ll be at the farmers market held every Saturday morning at the Key Biscayne Community Church; the Chamber of Commerce’s Families in Paradise event Sunday, March 4th from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. at Village Hall; Bill Baggs beach cleanups held the second Saturday of each month from 8:30-11:30 a.m.; and the ArtSea event on Virginia Key Saturday at 11 a.m. All Books & Books locations have also allowed GoVoteMiami to set up registration stations.

For a full list, visit www.GoVoteMiami.org. Anyone who wants to register to vote needs only their driver’s license or state-issued ID, or the last four digits of their Social Security number.

Along with the registration efforts, GoVoteMiami helps train volunteers to register voters and educates the public on other opportunities to lend a hand.

Bracken said promoting GoVoteMiami has exposed her to a variety of people who want to lend their talents to political activism, and it’s taught her that anyone can contribute. Everyone has skills and everyone knows someone who knows someone else. “You can make lists or work on research, you can canvas or phone bank, you can attend Village Council meetings. Every single person can do something” she said. “I see it all the time: getting involved, even with small contributions, has an exponential effect on people’s feeling of accomplishment and empowerment. “

“If you do one thing today, it’s more than you did yesterday,” she said.

For more information on how to volunteer, and for voter registration and election resources, visit www.GoVoteMiami.org, www.MiamiDade.gov/elections or www.RegisterToVoteFlorida.gov.

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