The ongoing coronavirus crisis has underlined just how important community organizing is to the Wood River Valley, one of the hardest hit areas of the state. It’s more important than ever to create opportunities to connect and get involved to build a collective future where we all benefit. Our community benefits when we are all civically engaged, and that includes ensuring we’re all counted in the 2020 census and participating in our local elections.
Participating in the census and voting are similar as they both play a critical role in the decision-making power that determines which resources are made available to which communities. Yet, some communities are left out of that process. A study from the McClure Center for Public Policy Research and the University of Idaho found that as of 2017, 62 percent of Idaho Hispanics were of voting age but had historically lower participation rates at the polls than non-Hispanics. That illustrates how important our young people’s voices are if we want to have a community that can take care of one another.
I challenge my fellow residents to share information, like the changes to our upcoming election, which will be done entirely by mail, with young people and those most affected by the coronavirus to ensure we include their voices in our recovery efforts. If we don’t, only some of us will recover, and we will see a large gap in much-needed resources that will ultimately result in the opposite of a thriving community.
Because Spanish-language assistance is an important part of reaching those in our community who may be impacted the most, please share this bilingual web page created by an Idaho-based conservation group working to increase civic engagement: cvidaho.org/2020election/. It contains nonpartisan information around our new voting process for the May 19 primary election. The process is new but straightforward: All eligible voters can register and request an absentee ballot online at Idahovotes.gov or by paper forms also found on the website. You still must be at least 18 and a U.S citizen to be eligible to vote. If you would like to complete your requests online, you will need an Idaho ID and the last four digits of your social security number to complete your request. The absentee ballots will allow for safe voting as it will be entirely through the mail and has been used by our service members when they are away from home for many years.
Also be sure to fill out the 2020 census. Even if you are unable to vote, you are required to fill out the census for your household, which will help guide federal funding for school lunches, Medicaid, Medicare, unemployment insurance and food assistance to your community for the next 10 years. And it’s completely safe and secure—the census does not ask citizenship questions and cannot release your personal data.
Please complete the census by going online at 2020census.gov or by calling 844-330-2020. If you know of someone who needs to fill it out in Spanish, they can do so at 2020census.gov/es or by calling 1-844-468-2020.
Community organizer Herbert Romero is the founder of ProjecT.O.O.L.S & Partners. He lives in Hailey.