Changing the Political Story

By Asheton Gilbertson

To protect Colorado’s air, land, water, and people, elections matter. We need policies that protect our environment, from keeping water in our rivers to standing up for health and safety in the oil and gas industry. Voting is one of the most important things a person can do to make sure their values are Colorado priorities.

But in the United States, many people don’t vote, even though they are eligible. Worse, people who don’t vote tend to be younger, more racially and ethnically diverse, less affluent, and less educated than people who are likely to vote. That means those communities, who have been marginalized and disenfranchised throughout history, have less of a voice in shaping our future.

We’re committed to changing this reality, and that’s why we’re working toward registering 10,000 people to vote this November – with the goal of 7,500 people of color. Led by our Protégete team with our partners at Servicios de La Raza, we’re making real progress! So far, we’ve helped over 6,600 voters register in Colorado, thanks to the hard work of our voter registration team.

What does that work look like? It’s more than just getting people to complete a form. Through one-on-one conversations, our team is growing community, amplifying voices, and bridging a social gap.

We sat down with some of the people who are doing this work on the ground to hear what motivates them to help people register. The stories we heard were inspiring.

Jason and Wanda Prince

Growing Community

Jason and Wanda Prince have been together for 21 years, 4 of which they’ve spent in Colorado. But contrary to what you might expect, this year will be their first voting in the state. Prior to becoming canvassers, they were disillusioned with the political process, like so many voters. But working to register voters, Jason says he’s become “aware of what individually I can do to cause a change in society.” And now he’s making others aware too.

“There were times in our life when we were almost homeless, and we were doing really bad. So these people out here [outside of Denver] and in the city have seen us go from the lowest level of poverty to working for Protégete, making people aware of your rights. We’ve shown them that you can transition.”

Jason continued: “Most importantly, I feel like we’re making people aware of what their voice can do if they cast their vote…I feel like Protégete hiring me and my wife, it gave us hope, it’s changed our life. And I think a lot of people see it. And maybe it gives them hope, too.”

“Sometimes people just need that little bit of assistance or that encouragement to try. Because for some people, that’s all that they’re missing,” added Wanda.

Amplifying Voices

Jordan Bresson is leading our voter registration program and knows that voting is the best way to give people a voice.

“We need equal representation in voting,” she said. “Our population here in Denver and Colorado, it isn’t 100 percent white, it isn’t 100 percent one gender. We need to have it be more representative of our districts and our state. I think that it’s important that we have all communities of color, all genders, all gender identities voting. Who better to know the issues or what’s wrong with the system than those who have to live within it everyday?”

Wanda agrees, believing that voting gives us the power to make change. “It’s important for you to be heard. If you don’t have a voice, you don’t have a choice. If you don’t vote, there’s no other way for the government to know what would help you. If you don’t research your candidates and find out which one is going to meet your needs, you’ll never get those needs met.”

Erika David knows that her work as a canvasser is making a difference, saying, “What everybody thinks matters. It shouldn’t just be one group of people. Everybody’s opinion matters.”

Jordan Bresson

Erika David

Jake Townsand

Bridging a Social Gap

Jake Townsand started his canvassing job after working as a Conservation Colorado intern. Now, he’s listening to voters’ personal stories and learning about the most important issues facing Colorado’s communities.

“I was out [canvassing] about three weeks ago, and I ran into this group of four seventeen-year-old[s]…At first they didn’t care anything about voting, right? But that’s what’s important. You’ve got to be willing to have a conversation and create dialogue,” said Jake.

Jordan knows that the wealth gap is one of the most pressing issues for Coloradans: “It’s important that we have elected officials that understand the poverty gap, that understand how wages need to be keeping up with the rising cost of living.”

This sentiment was shared by Jason, who said, “There’s a social gap between the streets, the lower middle class, the middle class and politicians. And we [canvassers] represent a part of that bridge to that gap.”

Jordan, Jason, and all the canvassers know: when large numbers of people don’t vote, elections are decided by narrow, unrepresentative groups and in the interests of wealth and power. But when more people vote – especially underrepresented groups – the political story can change.

Wanda said, “If the same people come out and vote every time, we’ll never see a change. It’s good to have different people voting so we can see what it would be if these [different] people casted their vote.”

After hearing from these canvassers, it’s clear how important this work is. Jordan says it best: “We’re giving hardworking people great paying jobs, we’re educating people on the importance of voting, and we’re getting more people involved in the process. For me, knowing that we’re creating changemakers and sending people out to educate folks on how to vote properly and getting people excited about voting, I think it’s really great.”

So do we. That’s why we’ll be registering voters all the way up until election day — so make sure your registration is up-to-date! Visit GoVoteColorado.com to register or update your information.

Jason helps register a Denver resident

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