Local advocates are working to get people in the LGBTQ community registered to vote before the upcoming general election.
One in five LGBTQ people are not registered to vote, according to Fairness West Virginia, a statewide LGBTQ advocacy organization. The group has a pledge campaign to get people registered and to get others out to vote.
Fairness West Virginia also has a voting guide for transgender people to ensure their vote is counted. Transgender people can face problems because the gender listed on their ID does not match what the poll worker thinks the person should look like, or they can also face harassment and discrimination at the polls because of their appearance.
Angelo Moore, a Charleston resident and member of the city’s LGBTQ working group, said educating people about the voting process is the best way to get people interested in the election. Moore said many people, especially those from low-income backgrounds, have never been involved in the voting process and don’t know much about it.
“I’ve run into people who hadn’t voted before, and once I talked to them, it was, ‘Well, how do I sign up? Where do I need to go?’” Moore said.
Getting people registered is the first step, Moore said, then the rest should hopefully follow.
“I tell everybody my goal is to get you to vote, because once you at least get them excited to vote then a lot of times they will go out and say OK, ‘Well let me research for who I do want to vote for.’ So once you get them in the door, they start knowing exactly who they want to vote for and why they want to vote,” Moore said.
Moore’s outreach strategy also doesn’t involve a list of preferred candidates.
“I don’t ever say ‘Hey vote for this person or vote for this person.’ I always tell them one vote, one voice. Every vote matters. Every voice matters,” Moore said. “However if you don’t vote you don’t have a voice, so therefore we need you to vote so you can have a voice.”
Voter education and information sessions are usually best held at local businesses that support the LGBTQ community, Moore said. In Charleston, a number of local businesses have supported the community for years — the ones that do likely will have the “All Kinds Are Welcome Here” sticker in a store window.
A new All Kinds Are Welcome Here campaign is also getting underway, said Chris Gosses, a Charleston resident and another member of the city’s LGBTQ working group. Gosses and Moore primarily deal with community outreach within the group.
The new campaign asks businesses to take a pledge to maintain an inclusive environment.
“It really is an embodiment of All Kinds Are Welcome Here in Charleston. It ensures patrons, employees or vendors feel comfortable entering and using the facilities and services in different locations,” Gosses said. “The pledge encourages the businesses to lead by example, too.”
Moore said without these local businesses, the LGBTQ community doesn’t have its backbone. Whether it’s voting or other outreach efforts, these businesses have provided the safe spaces the community has needed.