Written by Erin Murphy, Director of Education and Advocacy Network, YWCA Seattle I King I Snohomish.
On the day after election, I find myself tired but encouraged at the same time. Mostly tired because I was up late watching the results come in! But encouraged because of a number of things I observed and experienced this 2012 election.
1) While not everyone feels the same about the outcomes, I was struck by how much people care. You and I may not agree and may feel very differently about the election results, but if disagreements stem from strongly held beliefs and thoughtfulness, I respect that. Apathy is what I do not understand, and at least in my election experience this year, I came across little to no apathy.
Voter turnout does appear to be less than it was in 2008, for a number of potential reasons, but the numbers are still coming in.
2) I am encouraged by easier voting options! Washington is one of two states that now allow a vote-by-mail system. I voted by mail and while it is less community oriented than going to the polls, I really enjoyed filling out my ballot like it was homework. I sat at my coffee table, did all my research, and completed my ballot while drinking a cup of tea. Once I dropped it in the mail, I could track the status of my ballot by visiting the King County Elections Ballot Tracker. I believe that all Washington counties have some version of this tracking system. Pretty cool!
Washington State is also the first state to allow voter registration through Facebook. We have already allowed online registration since 2008 along with a number of other states, but this is taking accessibility to another level. I was already registered and so didn’t check it out but am curious to hear from anyone who did!
With efforts like these to make voting easier, early voting in a number of states appeared to increase. I am hopeful that improvements to the voting process will continue especially as Obama thanked voters in his acceptance speech last night, with a shout out to those who waited in long lines, noting, “By the way, we have to fix that.”
While excited about these voting changes to make voting more accessible, I also want to acknowledge the trend in many other states to change voter registration laws in a way that seems to make voting inaccessible to particular voting groups. There certainly are challenges as well!
3) I am encouraged because this election sparked important conversations about whiteness and privilege. While race was a hot topic in the 2008 election with the possibility of our first black president, I am glad to see the conversations this time around looking at race more holistically, also exploring the implications of whiteness and institutional racism. With 88% of the Romney vote being white, it is something to consider. Race is strongly connected to the Firesteel mission as there is racial disproportionality in homelessness. Let’s name the political dynamics that reflect our social inequities.
4) I am encouraged that housing and homelessness was referenced in the President’s acceptance speech. When speaking of veterans, Obama recognized those who advocated to, “make sure that no one who fights for this country ever has to fight for a job or a roof over their head when they come home.” It may have been small, but it was something!
I took the snapshot below at the election party I attended. Advocacy can feel long and lonely at times, so I wanted to capture the feeling of community to remind myself throughout the year that there are people that care and a lot of them! Across political parties and ideologies, I do believe that we can work towards ending homelessness and remain encouraged by passionate advocates and electeds.