Pa. LGBTQ organizations work to register voters before midterms

‘It’s crucial that young people vote, especially if they’re LGBTQ or allies because the policies are still being written in this state,’ one advocate said

By: - October 9, 2022 6:30 am
The Whitehall Township Municipal Building, shown on May 9, was one of five locations for ballot drop-off boxes in Lehigh County (Photo by Donna Fisher/Armchair Lehigh Valley).

(Photo by Donna Fisher/Armchair Lehigh Valley).

By Michele Zipkin

PHILADELPHIA — According to a study by UCLA’s Williams Institute, 21 percent of LGBTQ people are not registered to vote, a higher percentage than non-LGBTQ people (17 percent). With that in mind, Philadelphia LGBTQ leaders and organizations are working hard to disseminate information and make it as easy as possible for people to register to vote in the upcoming midterm election on Nov. 8.

The PA Coalition for Trans Youth, TAKE (Transgender Advocates Knowledgeable Empowering), Temple University’s Students for Transgender Awareness and Rights, Wilkes University’s Gender and Sexuality Alliance and Lebanon Valley College’s LGBTQ club Freedom Rings organized a college day of action for trans rights on their respective campuses.

The October 4 events all had strong turnouts, and the event organizers registered dozens of students who weren’t registered to vote at their current address, said Daye Pope, director of Civic Engagement at TAKE Resource Center.

“We were able to get almost a hundred folks signing our voter pledge to say they’re going to show up this year to support LGBTQ rights in the ballot box,” Pope said. “One of the things we’re trying to really make sure that everyone understands is that we are, here in Pa., in a battle right now over whether we’re going to go the way of Florida and Texas and pass a bunch of anti-trans legislation.”

She brought up the introduction of a Don’t Say Gay bill in the Pennsylvania legislature, and the introduction of a bill banning trans women and girls from participating in school sports.

“Luckily they have not been enacted here yet, but who wins this midterm election could make a huge impact on whether those things get passed in this next legislative cycle in [Pennsylvania],” Pope said. “It’s crucial that young people vote, especially if they’re LGBTQ or allies because the policies are still being written in this state. We have a chance, we have time to stop these anti-trans bills, these anti-gay bills.”

TAKE and the PA Coalition for Trans Youth are organizing another big voter registration event to take place on Saturday, Oct. 22 at the Rotunda in West Philadelphia, two days before the deadline to register to vote on Oct. 24.

Liberty City LGBTQ Democratic Club also plans to run initiatives to help get out the vote among its membership, including its annual Get Out the Vote bar crawl; an event to educate members about the candidates who are running for the City Council special election in Pennsylvania; and a general endorsement meeting to remind Liberty City members about newer candidates and how the organization plans to endorse them.

“As a queer person of color, I think the biggest barrier to voting is actually receiving good information,” said Tariem Burroughs, Liberty City’s board co-chair. He brought up the ramifications of the reversal of Roe v. Wade and what’s at stake if [Republican gubernatorial nominee Doug] Mastriano wins the election as major reasons to vote.

“I think one of the biggest barriers there is that people don’t see how it connects to some of the smaller pieces and some of the information that they’re receiving — it’s just not good,” Burroughs said. “That’s why Liberty City does exist, so we can be that conduit to provide that information.”

The need to increase voting rates among communities of color still persists, Burroughs said. Philadelphia has a low voting average, the lowest demographic being people of color.

“There’s still a little apathy,” Burroughs said. “So really giving people of color hope, especially now particularly around gun violence, which impacts pretty much everybody in the city, but specifically people of color.” He also expressed the importance of reminding people that “that there is hope, your vote does matter; you do need to vote.”

Ted Bordelon, who also serves on the Liberty City board, recently founded the national political action committee Agenda PAC, which launches campaigns that call for accountability for anti-LGBTQ elected officials and those running for office.

The Agenda PAC team released a streaming video advertisement targeting Mastriano, aimed at those living in Philadelphia collar counties who are interested in LGBTQ issues “and who, frankly, we need to get out and vote, period,” Bordelon said.

When it comes to such voters, “not only is Mastriano potentially able to win them over, but potentially even when it comes to the Senate race. We need to get these people out to vote for the entire ticket,” Bordelon said.

Jason Evans, who co-launched the GOTV initiative PhillyVoting.org, is planning to have a table with voter registration QR codes on Camac Street on Saturday, Oct. 8 and Sunday, Oct. 9 from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., where he and other volunteers will help people register to vote, and talk about the importance of voting.

“This election is way too important,” Evans said. “Not just for our community but when you have people like Mastriano talking about how gay marriage shouldn’t exist and women shouldn’t have the right to choose for their body — there are just too many issues at stake. Those are just the marginalized community-focused items.”

Evans also addressed Mastriano’s intention to decertify certain voting machines, if elected. “We know how that’s going to play out — he’s going to decertify Black and Brown neighborhoods, LGBTQ neighborhoods,” Evans said.

Jonathan Lovitz, who co-launched Phillyvoting.org and serves as special advisor to the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce, stressed that Governor Wolf is just the second governor in the country to recognize LGBT-owned businesses and statewide procurement, something that Mastriano could reverse should he win election.

“We have to be a role model in Pa. so that we don’t just rely on the two big cities to save the Commonwealth,” Lovitz said. “I think one of the most effective messages I’ve seen is that meme on social media that says ‘you cannot tell an LGBTQ person you love them and then vote for someone who will hurt them.’”

Michele Zipkin is a reporter for the Philadelphia Gay News, where this story first appeared.

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.