Meet 'Spread The Vote,' a nonprofit helping voters get IDs, rides, support so they can vote

“We believe voting is the sacred right of every American, and every American should be able to exercise it.” — spreadthevote.org.

Spread The Vote is a nonprofit organization that works “to close the gap between registered voters and voter turnout by obtaining IDs, educating, and empowering voters.”

They focus on helping people get the forms of ID their state requires, showing them how to fill out the paperwork properly, and covering any associated costs.

They find these eligible but marginalized voters “by going to [low-income housing facilities], food banks and churches that provide meals,” as the Washington Post reported last October.

* Donate to support their work here. *

They do simple things that make all the difference between people being able to vote or not vote, like organizing rides to the polls on Election Day.

From Spread The Vote 's website:

The largest population of voters in America is people who are registered to vote, but don’t turnout at the polls. Why not? Challenges with transportation, childcare, voter education, and more keep people from showing up on election day.

With this population in mind, Spread the Vote recently launched a new character designed to represent their new civic and voter education program, Voter Ed.

I asked the people behind Spread the Vote to tell us more about how Edwina came to be, and what they're up to as America approaches the 2020 presidential election:

Meet Edwina, or Ed, for short. Ed is a 25 year old IT professional who is guiding Americans across the country through the voting and democratic process.

Ed, through her own journey from disengaged voter to realizing the importance of voter participation, discovered the lack of resources available to help adults navigate the political process. Now, she works to pass along the knowledge she gained in hopes of helping every American who wants to be more civically engaged.

With all the talk about Ed, some people may wonder, how is art or the design of Ed relevant to the conversation about voting rights? According to graphic artist Erin O’Neill Jones, the illustrator behind Ed, “Representation matters. It’s important for voters to feel they are seen as much as it is for them to be heard. It’s a sign that all of this belongs to you too.”

In political and governmental spaces, it’s often black women, mothers, and young women who are the driving forces, even if behind-the-scenes. Last year, women across the nation stepped up and turned out in races up and down the ballot, truly fulfilling 2018’s nickname, “The Year of the Woman.” Spread The Vote wanted Ed to symbolize those women whose commitment to “the work” somehow blended them into the background, but who are now moving to the forefront.

Ed is an unexpected image for some, but everything the team at Spread The Vote had imagined.
Ed reflects elements of diversity from the top of her “poof ball” to the sole of her sneakered feet.

At a time when women continue to tackle issues such as imposter syndrome, sexual objectification, and negative body images in media, Ed stands tall, full-figured, and confident in her skin and in her knowledge of navigating the voting process.

When first approached to design the Voter Ed character, Erin was already familiar with Spread The Vote.

When we told Erin we envisioned Ed as a black woman, her immediate reaction was, “I have to do this now... since I was a kid, I’ve been drawing characters for shows that I didn’t see myself in.”

She also knew Ed had to be relatable, a stand-in for the general electorate.

When designing Ed, in addition to being relatable, Erin also wanted her to be open and friendly - all words she would use to describe her neighbor or her big sister from college. But the fact of the matter is, Ed can be a lot of people. Ed is anyone who cares about the well-being of their family, community, and country but needs some support in turning that care into voter participation. It takes a degree of humility to admit what you don’t know, and a special type of person to find that information and share it with others.

So what’s next for Ed? To quote the late, great Aretha Franklin, women don’t need to do anything other than what they’re doing now, and that’s moving forward. Moving to the forefront. Moving into the executive offices. Moving into the areas that men have held captive. With that said, Ed and Spread The Vote’s voter education program will continue to do exactly what it’s doing now—growing and moving forward.

* Donate to support their work here. *

[Thanks, Cristelle Brown!]