On Tuesday, November 7, 2006, two hundred volunteers poured into the Mosque Foundation’s basement where New Americans Democracy Project Fellow Haady Taslim (a project lead by the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights and co-hosted by CAIR-Chicago) waited anxiously to start the day. It was Election Day and there was a buzz in the Bridgeview community, as well as other surrounding communities.
The goal was simple: to bring Muslims in the southwest suburbs in record numbers to the polls.
As a CAIR-Chicago pilot project to empower American Muslims and encourage political engagement, the NADP was a major success with a record number of Muslims not only registering to vote but turning out to the polls on Election Day.
A 50% increase in voter turnout in the Mosque Foundation’s Area (Palos 44) was the highest the area has seen and was well above the expected turnout. Voter registrations in the area also rose by 80%.
In neighboring areas, voter turnout with registered Muslim voters increased significantly as well, with record turnouts in most precincts. As a non-partisan campaign, volunteers and leaders ran into some difficulties when it came to communicating with community members who insisted on being told who to vote for.
Voters were given the CAIR-Chicago Voter Education Guide, which provided them with detailed information on the candidates as well as the voting records of incumbents.
As a pilot project for CAIR-Chicago, the NADP highlighted the strengths and weakness of the Muslim community that is developing. “As a relatively young community, we have a long way to go. Though we ran into a lot of problems earlier in the campaign and had a rough start, we went above and beyond the expected numbers,” remarked Sadiya Ahmed, CAIR-Chicago Governmental Relations Coordinator. “The success of this project is only the beginning. We have a long way to go.”
The NADP was initially started in July, where Community Organizer and NAPD Fellow Haady Taslim and a team of volunteers, worked on registering eligible American Muslims to vote.
The numbers climbed over the months to a final count of 1055 by the registration deadline in October, a number that has never been achieved in such a short time period.
The project then switched gears to a Get Out the Vote Campaign (GOTV), where thousands or registered voters were contacted throughout the month, through mass mailings, door-to-door canvassing, and phone calls. The message was simple: “Go out and vote on Election Day!”
Though the project is only the beginning, it set the groundwork for the future, for the American Muslim community to become active in their communities, and encourage each other to become active constituents. With the 2006 election finished and the 2008 election is next on the list.
copyright © 2006, cairchicago.org