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Sep 27, 2016 3:59 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

OLA Spread Voter Awareness Throughout East End

Minerva Perez of OLA of Eastern Long Island holds a voter registration form for residents to fill out in Springs on Saturday. JON WINKLER
Sep 27, 2016 4:28 PM

As part of its push to involve the Latino community in the electoral process, OLA of Eastern Long Island was in two East End communities on Saturday to help people register to vote.

Tables were posted at Jasmine’s Hair Salon on Springs-Fireplace Road in Springs and by the Latin Center Store & Multi Services building on West Montauk Highway in Hampton Bays, where passersby were encouraged to fill out both English and Spanish language versions of the New York State Voter Registration form.

The program, part of OLA’s effort to build a Latino voter base on the East End, is funded by a grant from the New York Immigration Coalition. The grant is for $5,000 and will be awarded to OLA once all of their voter-based activities are complete. Until then, the money is provided by OLA themselves and would cover advertising, fliers, and other outreach activities to lure potential Latino voters.

“Some people may not have chosen who they’re going to vote for, but registering doesn’t mean they have to choose now,” Minerva Perez, executive director of OLA of Eastern Long Island who was at the Springs table, said. “They just have to register.”

Ms. Perez said that she and OLA have been hosting registration tables throughout September, with the first table at the Latin Center in Hampton Bays on September 3. Ms. Perez said that she performed training on the Voter Activation Network, an online database of information on registered voters and voter history. 

“We knew that some people might be hesitant to fill out the forms or may need to bring extra information, like their passport,” Ms. Perez said. “The only really personal information needed is their driver’s license number and the last four digits of their social security number. Once they fill out the form, we make sure to mail them or deliver them in person to the Board of Elections in Yaphank. Once that’s done, I can call anyone who filled out a form and tell them what to do next. If they like, they can also call the board and ask if their name is on the list of registered voters.”

Ms. Perez was joined by Lucia Martinez, an East Hampton resident and volunteer with OLA, who said she understands why some of the Latino members of the East End community are cautious when it comes to voting in this year’s presidential election.

“People are afraid of being compromised by voting or registering with a certain political party,” Ms. Martinez said. “But when they actually register here, I see that they look happy that they did it.”

“Some people don’t have the proper status in the U.S. to vote, or just don’t have the knowledge of how to register,” said Sigrid Meinel, a member of Neighbors In Support of Immigrants, who was sitting at the table in Hampton Bays. “We want to encourage them that it’s their right and freedom to register to vote.”

“Some people here come from places that didn’t have that right,” said Jaime Ruiz, a resident of Hampton Bays, who is originally from Chile. “I’ve talked to 20 people today about this right.”

Once people fill out the registration forms, Ms. Perez scans them into an email and sends them to the New York Civic Engagement Table, which then calls each person who filled out paperwork to confirm that it is correct. Once all the information has been confirmed, NYCET will send a confirmation document back to Ms. Perez, who then takes the document to the Board of Elections.

“When we tell people about what we’re doing, they’re very positive and supportive of what we’re doing,” Ms. Perez said. “This isn’t just about getting involved in the coming election, but getting involved in the town board meetings and school board meetings. We need to be doing more to inspire people to get more involved in civic engagement.”

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Great work, OLA. One of the most important responsibilities of citizenship is participating in the democratic process.
By Patti Schaefer (12), Westhampton Beach on Sep 29, 16 12:49 PM
1 member liked this comment
Involvement in ones community is essential for the proper functioning of our American republic. It is welcomed that this activity is attracting curiosity and engagement...one caveat though is that the individuals must be of legal status.
By tom (53), Hampton Bays on Sep 29, 16 4:35 PM
1 member liked this comment
I think it's awesome that legal Latinos are taking part in the voting process and the ones I speak with at work know that Donald Trump will be better for them. Latinos are not lazy people they are hard-working church-going family people and we welcome you into our community
By widow gavits (219), sag harbor on Sep 29, 16 6:04 PM
I am a little confused over this article. The first requirement to have the right to vote is US citizenship. If someone is not born in this country, how do we know they are a citizen? Obtaining a driver's license or social security card do not require being a citizen. I agree that being involved in the community is important, but so is obeying the law. Many people have given their lives to protect that right and we should continue to do so. The rights we have as US citizens should be valued ...more
By marcd (7), southampton on Sep 30, 16 11:09 AM
1 member liked this comment