Change through Unity
I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Khalid Bey, 38, who works for the New York state Senate here in Syracuse. He is the Spokesperson for the organization Go Vote! I’m sure most of you have heard the name Go Vote by now. But for those of you who haven’t, here’s the scoop:
Go Vote! is a socio-political organization based out of Syracuse. It’s been around since September 2008 and has a following of approximately 1,000 members.
The Stand: What is the general purpose of Go Vote?
Khalid Bey: Go Vote’s ultimate focus is to educate people, particularly in minority communities, about voter unity. Only a fraction, for example around 20-30 percent of the African-American population, actually participates in the election process. Our attempt is to not only promote voter education, but an understanding of the power of a vote. Even more so, how powerful a concentrated vote can be. Getting people to organize into a voting block to effect elections. That’s our purpose.
TS: What brought about the creation of Go Vote?
KB: People are not knowledgeable of the election process & the value of it. But most importantly, for those who are, or tend to be, involved in the process…they don’t appear to act on the idea of the power behind unified voting.
A lot of the time in minority communites, particularly the African-American community, the vote is split between various candidates who may be running for a certain office. This type of splitting of the vote reduces our political power; thereby reducing the effect that we can have on government and policy.
TS: What are some of the present and future objectives for Go Vote?
KB: The objective stays the same. As of yet, we haven’t succeeded in unifying the vote of the African-American and minority community in general. So that is our main focus. Past that point, educating people to an understanding of ward committees in the city, and how the ward committees are ultimately charged with the job of determining who the candidates may be for any respective party. Even further beyond that, Go Vote may look to educate, develop or groom its own candidates for political office some time in the future.
TS: Which political party does the organization back?
KB: Go Vote is a non partisan organization, which means we don’t choose a particular side. We are more interested in the person and what he/she stands for, than the party. A lot of the time it may appear that we support democrats, but that’s because a lot of the issues supported by Democrats are our issues. We have affiliates with each party however.
TS: What are some of the most rewarding parts of the organization?
KB: I’d say that it’s seeing the effect of the education. And, seeing the excitement on people’s faces when they get a better understanding of the voting process. When they get a grasp on how they can, in fact, affect policy simply by pulling a lever in a booth. Also, listening to people contribute ideas for educating others and getting people involved, those are the most rewarding parts about it.
TS: In contrast, what would you say are some challenges?
KB: In that regard, I would say that it’s motivating people and getting them to take a position where they feel ownership in the process. You’re putting your vote in, so it’s like an investment. Helping people understand the importance of this idea despite the fact that they may be bombarded with trying circumstances is the hardest thing.
TS: Is there a disparity in suburban versus urban participation or minority versus non-minority voter participation and why?
KB: Well, you have to start with the base of the issue, which is Democrats and Republicans. Traditionally, more Republicans turnout in elections than democrats. Republicans have a voter turnout of approximately 80 percent, while Democrats have about a 35 percent turnout. This changes the potential win/lose categories for officials when these numbers are in play. When you talk about disenfranchised communities a lot of their motivations are somewhat questionable. What drives a person in the suburbs may be different than what drives a person in the city. The same rule applies to the different parts of Syracuse: North, South, East and West. If a person has no knowledge of how the things they look forward to every day are affected by elections, then the person assumes that the process isn’t something that he/she needs to be concerned with … because it doesn’t appear to affect them directly. This is where education comes in, because everything from property tax increase to bus fare increase, it all stems from the political arena. When that understanding is received, I think people will look at the process differently. Your vote does count. And it makes a difference for you and your community.
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