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The Center leads community effort to turn out "Equality Voters"

(Editor's note: Oct. 22 was the final day to register to vote in the Nov. 6 election. Find out how to register.)

SAN DIEGO -- The San Diego LGBT Community Center is in the home stretch of its Equality Voters campaign, an effort to identify, educate and empower "Equality Voters."

Just what is an Equality Voter?

“Equality Voters are not single-issue voters -- they care about many different policy and political issues,” said Dr. Delores A. Jacobs, chief executive officer of The San Diego LGBT Community Center. “As they prepare to vote, they also bring with them a commitment to ensuring fundamental fairness and dignity -- for themselves, for their family, friends, neighbors and co-workers.

“For Equality Voters, equality is not the only issue, but it is a threshold issue,” Jacobs said. “And perhaps one of the most important things about Equality Voters is that they do actually get out and vote. Our votes do make a difference in elections at all levels.”

“To me an Equality Voter is someone who believes in social justice for everyone,” said Denise Serrano, The Center’s director of public affairs and civic engagement. “I don’t see it as just being the LGBT community, but there are these multiple intersections – color, gender, nationality, environmental issues – sometimes they all intersect in one person. But exercising that right to vote is imperative. It is the one time that you have complete and total control to take an active step to make your community go in the direction you want it to go. It is a powerful thing to do.”

In recent years, The Center has engaged in voter registration and voter turnout efforts. “Over the past few years, we’ve really encouraged people to be vote by mail voters, so they can vote from the comfort of their own homes,” Serrano said. “We really want to increase the community’s voice at the ballot box. At The Center, we are non-partisan and non-candidate focused, so we are offered a unique opportunity to just encourage people to exercise their right to vote. We are excited to be working with Environmental Health Coalition, Equality Alliance, San Diego Pride, North County LGBTQ Resource Center, GSDBA and others to energize our whole community to vote.”

Serrano said that she and volunteers who are on the phone and walking San Diego neighborhoods continue to hear a familiar refrain, one they are working tirelessly to change.

“We still hear people saying, ‘My vote doesn’t matter,’” Serrano said. “There is still an apathy or a helplessness or just a disillusionment with the process. We were really able to counteract that on the day of the Pride parade. We had 100 volunteers out in teams of 10 and they were up and down that parade route as part of a massive effort to register voters and get Equality Voters pledge cards signed. They were out on the street before 7 am, talking to people about registering and voting. Our volunteers still heard, ‘It’s just one vote.’ But they were able to turn around and say, ‘Look, there’s 200,000 of us here. If everyone here votes for equality, that’s a huge impact,’ and people understood that.”

Those volunteer teams, out in force in bright orange T-shirts, have also been at several other community events, on the phone and out in local clubs to register voters and to get them to sign the Equality Voters pledge card – a card that ultimately gets mailed back to them to remind them of their pledge and to vote. “When people get back that pledge card, it increases the likelihood that they will indeed turn out to vote,” Serrano said.

Volunteers are vital to this effort. “We need more people to volunteer and to be engaged in reaching even more Equality Voters and have them turn out at the polls. We can’t move forward without help, and we can never have too many volunteers. There’s something for everyone – whether you like to talk on the phone or knock on doors, or prefer to be behind the scenes and stuff envelopes and put on labels and stamps, we have something for everyone and something that honors everyone’s contribution and work. This has truly been the definition of a community-led effort.”

Volunteers are phone banking at least three times a week until Election Day on Tuesday, Nov. 6. In addition, The Center’s front desk staff and volunteers have been trained and can register voters as well.

“When we’re on the phone, people are taken aback that we’re not trying to sell them on a particular candidate or issue,” Serrano said. “We are really just getting them to commit to vote. It’s a really unique phone call – we’re not pushy and we emphasize the positive. We thank them for being voters, and for being Equality Voters. We really just want them to register if they need to, and pledge to vote on Nov. 6.

“So many people have been turned off by the negative politics of things they hear,” Serrano continued. “By not having any partisan or candidate focus, we can truly focus and emphasize the process – how empowering an experience it is to walk into a voting booth and have a say in the direction we all go in.”

And that is exactly the point.

“We have made tremendous gains because people have been active, because people have knocked on doors,” Serrano said. ““We can’t afford to be complacent. There is so much on the line for us.”

It’s not too late to join in the effort. To get involved, or for more information, contact Denise Serrano at 619-692-2077 x103 or via e-mail at dserrano@thecentersd.org.

Don’t Miss These Deadlines!

Voter registration forms and vote-by-mail applications are available at The Center, 3909 Centre Street, San Diego, CA 92103, or online .

Oct. 22: Last day to register to vote in the general election
Oct. 29: Last day to request a vote-by-mail ballot for the general election
Nov. 6: General Election Day! Polls open from 7 am to 8 pm (Last day to turn in your vote-by-mail ballot)

Equality Voters Vote – Pledge to Vote Nov. 6

Are you an Equality Voter? Let us know by clicking on the link below and pledging to vote this coming election! Pledge to vote and pass it along – see you at the polls!