Social justice advocates plan on Saturday to fan out across Fresno voting precincts where voter participation is low, where they will encourage residents to vote in the June 7 primary election and show them the advantages of participating in the political process.
The effort is being spearheaded by member congregations of Faith in Community, a coalition of local faith institutions working for social justice, as well as Communities for a New California, a Fresno-based non profit that promotes economic prosperity and community health in low-income communities.
“We’ll let them know that your vote does matter, your voice matters,” said Kim McCoy, a community organizer with Communities for a New California. “We want them to use their power, use their voice about what changes they would like to see.”
The main target is the Fresno mayor’s race, where five people are seeking to replace current Mayor Ashley Swearengin, who is termed out at the end of the year.
Thomas Weiler, lead organizer for Faith in Community, said volunteers will go to “parts of the city that are most impacted by economic, environmental and racial justice issues, to give people there hope that change can happen and that their voice can have an impact on who is the next mayor.” That means primarily the southern parts of the city, but volunteers will likely seek out “disenfranchised or marginalized” voters in be present in six of city’s seven council districts.
Besides Saturday, the next big walk will be June 4.
Weiler said the effort is non-partisan and no single Fresno mayor candidate will be endorsed, but precinct walkers will be armed with a paper that has answers to 11 questions from candidates Lee Brand, Henry R. Perea and H. Spees. The other two hopefuls are Doug Vagim and Richard Renteria.
The questions – developed over months and a key part of an April 21 mayoral candidate forum in southeast Fresno – cover topics important to social justice advocates. Among them are queries about the homeless, mental health and addiction, public transportation, substandard housing and a more inclusive economy. Candidates are also asked specifically if they would include Faith in Community members in their transition advisory committees.
Already, Communities for a New California has been calling low propensity voters in Fresno to encourage them to vote. That will be augmented with precinct walks between now and Election Day. On the day itself, McCoy said Communities for a New California will be assisting with getting voters to the polls and answering any questions they might have about the voting process.