(Originally written July 20, 2018)
It’s been approximately one week since my last posting, and in the intervening period I have been tasked with developing and presenting a nonpartisan voter education training for first-generation immigrant high school students in Akron, Ohio. Demographically, Ohio is more diverse than one may expect: indeed, Columbus is home to the nation’s second-largest concentration of Somali immigrants (behind Minneapolis, Minnesota), and the nation’s single largest concentration of Bhutanese refugees. Unfortunately, however, many immigrant communities – within Ohio and elsewhere – do not engage the electoral and political processes at the same rates as non-immigrant Americans, for many reasons. Worse yet, I’ve learned that some immigrant communities have been targeted by misinformation campaigns seeking to depress immigrant voter turnout, with mailings falsely warning immigrants that they may only vote for a single office on the ballot, or offering incorrect information regarding voting hours, precinct locations, and registration rules. The organization with which I intern, For Our Future Ohio, believes strongly in expanding the franchise, so counteracting these misinformation campaigns and ensuring immigrants have the tools necessary to exercise their fundamental right to vote is of critical importance to our overarching purpose.
In understanding my assignment, it is necessary to provide greater context about our organization. For Our Future is, in fact, comprised of two distinct but interwoven legal entities. For Our Future, for which I have done most of my work as an intern, is a standard 527 organization authorized to conduct political work. For Our Future Action Fund, by contrast, is a 501(c)4 organization whose activities must, per campaign finance and tax law, be primarily issues-based, not partisan. Because the aforementioned voter education training is nonpartisan and centered on the issue of voting, it will be conducted under the auspices of For Our Future Action Fund. Organizing this training has thereby afforded me not only greater insight into the role of community outreach and education within For Our Future, but also an unexpectedly detailed insight into the intricacies of campaign finance rules, which are of great interest and value to me.
In developing this training, I have also been given insight into the importance of For Our Future’s training department to the execution of the organization’s overall mission. Since my last post, my duties have been shifted from the field department to the training and operations departments, and developing this nonpartisan voter education training has demonstrated to me that For Our Future Action Fund’s issues advocacy would be significantly hindered without the development of clear, concise materials and presentations on those issues.
Overall, this week has proven challenging – I’ve had to recalibrate myself from field work to training and operational work – but it’s paid dividends with regard to growing my understanding of campaign regulations and operations. I look forward to detailing my experience presenting this training in my next blog post.