‘Everyone wants to feel their voice is important’: United Way of Dane County launches campaign to help register, educate voters

MADISON, Wis. — A Dane County organization doesn’t just want people to vote, it wants them to realize their votes matter.

The United Way of Dane County has helped lift the voices of the community for close to a century. This year, the organization is using its influence to bring more voices to the table that aren’t always heard.

“Everyone wants to belong. Everyone wants to feel their voice is important,” said United Way of Dane County President and CEO Renee Moe. “Democracy is ruled by the people. How that happens is our elections.”

Moe said United Way launched a new campaign in March called ‘United We Count. United We Vote.’ The goal is to ensure people are informed on the issues that will be on the November ballot and to help as many marginalized groups of people as possible get registered to vote.

“Each and every one of us has a lot of power when it comes to lifting up our voices,” Moe said.

Moe said United Way is reaching out to its own members and clients as well as anyone else who may be interested in registering to vote for the first time. She said there’s power that comes when marginalized groups vote, such as those with low-income.

“A lot of times, folks who are in more marginalized communities don’t necessarily know how power systems work, they don’t know how decisions get made. So when you are able to illuminate some of how that process actually happens, you feel more part of the democratic process. You feel more American because you are able to participate and lift up your voice and action to make more positive change happen.”

According to a report put on by an Associate Professor of Social Work at Columbia University, people with low income turn out to vote at a rate that’s about 20% lower than higher income voters. The main reason people gave for not voting is the lack of interest in the issues and feeling their vote won’t matter.

Moe said this national data found in the report is reflected in Dane County too.

“A lot of people say they don’t feel like their voice matters or they don’t feel that their voice is heard. And our response is always, ‘Well how can it if you don’t participate?'”

The report uses the 2016 election as an anchor and examines data from every state. It shows that if low-income voters turned out to vote as much as higher income voters did in the 2016 election, it could have flipped the results, especially in a battleground state like Wisconsin.

According to data collected by the U.S. Census Bureau, since 2012, the number of white voters has increased while voter turnout among Black people has dropped significantly.

“To meet the challenge of this moment we need every person to participate and every voice to matter,” Moe said. “The way we are going to come through this feeling of unrest and all the challenges that have to be addressed through economics, healthcare, through other kinds of issues, certainly racial justice, it’s going to take everybody working together and pulling together.”

Moe said there is a huge missed opportunity when people with different lived experiences choose to be left out of the election process.

“Decisions are always better when you have multiple points of view reflected. People live different problems and therefore, they see different solutions.”

It’s why Moe and United Way are going the extra mile to help lift those voices to put power back with the people.

“That’s what voting means, that’s what giving means, that’s what volunteering means. That type of engagement is what’s so critical to helping our community be strong.”