Voter registration typically spikes ahead of presidential elections, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, new registrations are way down leading up to November 3. To make a difference in the LGBTQ community, Transform Houston has partnered with the Montrose Center to host a socially-distanced voter-registration event in the heart of the city’s gayborhood.
Voter Registration Drive THRU occurs between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. on Saturday, September 26 at the Montrose Center. Transform Houston’s Brad Pritchett says the group decided to use a drive-thru model for the event so people would feel safe while getting registered to vote.
“We thought of the best practices we’ve seen around the country during the pandemic, and we kept coming back to this idea of a drive-thru,” Pritchett says. “We’ve seen [successful] drive-thru food drives, curbside pickup at grocery stories, and even drive-thru COVID testing. We’re borrowing some of those ideas so folks feel comfortable and confident while registering.”
Voter registration will take place outside in the Montrose Center’s parking lot. The partner organizations will ensure safety by enforcing COVID-19 prevention guidelines such as social distancing and requiring everyone to wear masks. Attendees will wait in their cars while volunteers provide them with sanitized pre-packaged registration cards, pens, and personal protective equipment (PPE).
“Volunteers will hand those materials off to folks registering to vote, they’ll give us those forms back, and they can keep whatever else they need,” Pritchett explains. “Our volunteers will be socially distanced, and they’ll be wearing gloves and using sanitizing wipes. The packet that the voter gets will also include sanitizing wipes that they can keep.”
Kennedy Loftin, the Montrose Center’s chief development officer, says the organization partnered with Transform Houston to get as many LGBTQ people registered to vote as possible. “There’s nothing more important right now than ensuring that all of our community is registered to vote, gets out to vote, and queers the vote,” he says.
Loftin says voting is important because of all the LGBTQ civil rights at stake. “When political issues set us back, the number of problems that causes for our community is hard to quantify,” he says, noting that over the past five years, anti-LGBTQ lawmakers have caused disruption in the resource center’s work. “We’ve seen an expansion in troubling hate crimes against LGBTQ people, an increase in domestic violence, and an increase in mental-health and substance-abuse issues. Having your life become a political issue is very harmful to the members of our community.”
Fortunately, Houston’s LGBTQ community makes up a large voting bloc that has the ability to change election results, Pritchett says. Resources such as the League of Women Voters and the Houston GLBT Political Caucus can help folks see where candidates stand on the issues. “Our collective vote can help shift the balance of power on some of these races, and can be the difference between electing someone who is pro-LGBTQ equality and someone who isn’t,” Pritchett says. “We have to be able to recognize our voting power and exercise it, especially in an election that is this important.”
The last day to register to vote in Texas is Monday, October 5. To find out if you’re already registered to vote, visit vote.org/am-i-registered-to-vote.
What: Voter Registration Drive THRU with Transform Houston
When: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., September 26
Where: Montrose Center, 401 Branard St.