Every day hundreds of homeless and housing agencies across the state work directly with low-income people whose opinions, needs and struggles are largely ignored by our political leaders. And many low-income people largely ignore our political leaders, who are making decisions that directly affect their ability to have a decent, affordable place to live.

During the 2014 mid-term election, only 24 percent of Americans earning less than $20,000 a year voted. Compare that to a 53 percent voter turnout rate among people earning over $100,000 a year.

The fact is, politicians pay attention to communities that vote. If we want elected officials to address issues of poverty, homelessness and housing instability then we need to “voterize” the hundreds of thousands of Ohioans affected by these issues.

Voterization work has other benefits that help build healthier communities. People who vote are more likely to volunteer, advocate and be more active locally. Voting is a way of connecting to our neighborhoods, our government and the direction of public policy. It also helps to develop leaders from the community, leaders who could ultimately become officeholders.

Nonprofit agencies that help low-income Ohioans access stable housing, food, healthcare and other necessities are uniquely positioned to encourage their clients to engage in the democratic process. Nonprofits are trusted messengers in underrepresented communities. Agency staff have frequent personal contact with many people who don’t vote and can educate them about the need to make their voices heard through the ballot box.

That’s why COHHIO plans to bolster our Ohio Votes program. Using tried and true methods, like pledge cards, tabling at events, voter registration drives, printed materials and social media, COHHIO will train staff and work with social services agencies to increase voter registration and turnout among Ohio’s low-income communities in the 2018 election.

If your agency is interested in participating in COHHIO’s Ohio Votes program between now and the November election, please email Maria Bruno to learn more.

More information will be available on the Ohio Votes web page about voter activities over the coming months.