We, at the Iraqi Community Center in Maine, have embarked on an enormous effort to educate voters, many of whom are first time voters, about elections and to encourage participation in the upcoming midterm elections.
We hired six bilingual canvassers to knock on doors, engage Iraqi American voters about the importance of civic engagement and participating in elections, and to answer any questions that they may have about elections.
The Maine Voices Network helped to train the canvassers on registration, data input for tracking and follow up.
Our canvassers are contacting voters in four cities: Portland, Westbrook, Biddeford, and Augusta – all places where community members live. The canvassers reached many prospective voters in these communities. Community members welcomed the opportunity to speak with someone about the election in their own language and showed eagerness to participate in the upcoming election.
Additionally, the Iraqi Community Center held a community-wide gathering in Portland in September to inform the community of the voter drive efforts. We discussed technical items such as absentee voting, ballot questions, districts, political parties, and candidates.
Furthermore, the Iraqi Community Center in Maine is planning to launch “My Vote Can,” an initiative to share voters’ perspectives about issues and elections through a short video clip to be shared on our community website and social media links.
The Iraqi Community Center in Maine engages other community partners and civic groups to maximize voter participation among language minority communities. Participating in elections is a privilege and duty and it is an opportunity for many who were not able to do so in their home countries because of political repression and dictatorship.
We emphasize to voters that Maine is our home now, and we need to have a say in how we would want our community’s affairs managed.
Ali Al Mshakheel
Iraqi Community Center in Maine