Older adults find ways to help – and stay safe – in upcoming election

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Photo by Element5 Digital from Pexels
Photo by Element5 Digital from Pexels

by Ashby Village, local non-profit

In the last election, they volunteered as poll workers, putting in long hours to help voters cast their ballots. They walked precincts, rang door bells, drove people to their local polling places. Older adults all across the Bay Area played important roles in getting out the vote.  Don’t count on them sitting out this election because of the pandemic.

One group, Ashby Village’s ELDER ACTION interest group, has developed some creative ideas about how to keep COVID-19 from shutting down their activist efforts.  They’ve developed a list of five things that can be done while still sheltering-in-place, keeping social distance and being safe:

  1. Encourage your friends and family to register and vote. Sometimes grandparents are the most effective messengers. Get creative. Offer to walk their dogs, pack their lunch, or drive them to the polls or ballot drop box on Election Day.
  2. Recruit poll workers. Urge younger neighbors between jobs, Village volunteers, or members of your or nearby comneighborhood to sign up to be poll workers on Election Day, Tuesday, November 3.
  3. Help get out the vote from home. Send peer to peer texts or postcards, or make calls to turn out registered voters from the safety of your own home. Contact CARA, the California Alliance of Retired Americans (cara@gmail.com or jreid.cara@gmail.com or 510-663-4086) or the League of Women Voters in your area for lists of elder voters and scripts.
  4. Create and update a Ballot Drop Box Chart for your Village. For example, ELDER ACTION made THIS CHART for Ashby Village communities: Albany, Berkeley, El Cerrito, Emeryville, Kensington, North Oakland and Richmond. Then organize a group of trusted community members to help drop off ballots.
  5. Share the tips in this story and your ideas with friends, family, and your contacts at grocery stores, hair salons, neighborhood cafes, houses of worship, book groups and beyond. Send ELDER ACTION your additional ideas.

“We know that there are many of us out there that are used to a lifetime of active involvement in politics and voting.  We want to encourage people to pitch in – and stay safe,” says Marcia Freedman, ELDER ACTION co-founder and co-chair.

Ashby Village volunteer Holly Brownscombe has been a poll worker for 20 years and hopes to be at her precinct this year too. Meanwhile, she’s carrying around a brochure that explains mail-in ballots.  “It has come in handy already.”  She says. She’s also spreading the word to young relatives and their friends and neighbor kids who could work the polls and vote.

Ashby Village, a non-profit organization that works to keep older adults in their homes and engaged as they age, serves Albany, Berkeley, El Cerrito, Emeryville, Kensington, North Oakland, and Richmond. ELDER ACTION, which has 80 members, is one of Ashby Village’s many interest groups.

Rochelle Lefkowitz, ELDER ACTION co-founder and co-chair, says that sometimes grandparents are the most effective messengers.  According to her, grandparents can encourage their grandchildren and their friends to sign up as poll watchers.  They can make phone calls to remind people to mail in their absentee ballots and to vote early.  “This year, there’s election day on November 3 and Election Month in October,” she says.

Maryl Gearhart, an Ashby Village volunteer who chairs the Village’s IT Team, has created a list for East Bay residents who would rather drop off their ballots instead of mailing them. In addition to getting out the vote, ELDER ACTION members point out that there are important ballot measures, especially Proposition 15– which would raise commercial property taxes but not affect residential home owners—to get $12 billion every year to our public schools and communities.

“The bottom line is that we can’t let the pandemic keep us from doing our civic duty.  There’s something for everyone who wants to help.  We may be apart, but we are not alone,” says Lefkowitz.

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