by Kate Childs Graham | August 21, 2012
Josette Jaramillo talks with voters in Colorado. (Photo by Tatsue Maekawa)
As voter registration deadlines approach, AFSCME members like Josette Jaramillo are out every weekend and every evening registering voters.
In a little more than two weeks, Jaramillo, a member of Local 1335 (Council 76) in Pueblo, Colo., has registered nearly 50 voters, in a state where voter suppression tactics have been designed to discourage registration.
Eleven states have passed “Voter ID” laws and are using other tactics to tackle this non-existent issue. How non-existent? Shark attacks are 30 times more likely than voter fraud.
What’s really going on? Corporate- backed politicians are hoping to stop minorities, students and senior citizens – who are less likely to have IDs – from voting for the “wrong” candidate. Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler (who has publicly endorsed Mitt Romney) is trying to keep voters who did not vote in the last election cycle from being mailed ballots. Miss just one election and Gessler wants you classified as “inactive.” He also sent a letter to the Department of Homeland Security, asking its help to verify a list of 5,000 registered voters he believes to be non-citizens.
Just last week, AFSCME members scored a victory in court against yet another tactic of Gessler’s to stack the deck further in favor of billionaires. This one attempted to change campaign finance rules to ease the way for big money, anti-worker front groups while keeping up roadblocks for grassroots advocacy groups.
Gessler’s sinister attempts to suppress the votes of young people, poor people, elderly and people of color has actually helped Jaramillo register more voters. She uses his actions as a conversation starter for people who may at first show reluctance to being registered or updating their registration.
“I ask people, ‘Can I update your voter registration?’ Sometimes they say yes and sometimes no. If they say no, I tell them about Scott Gessler,” Jaramillo said. “Once I talk to them about what’s gone down with the Secretary of State and what he’s done to suppress the vote, they’re usually eager to register.”
For Jaramillo, a Next Waver, her motivation is simple. “I’m a public service worker,” she explained, “So every election from the city council and the board of commissioners to Congress and the White House affects funding for my job and public services. It’s important that we elect candidates who stand with workers.”
To register to vote, visit your state’s board of elections’ website.