On November 4th the CAIR-Chicago office was closed as staff members volunteered at the Mosque Foundation of Bridgeview, headquarters of the New American Democracy Project's "Get Out The Vote" (GOTV) Campaign. Volunteers worked from 8:00am to 6:00pm reminding area Muslims and Arabs to vote. They canvassed neighborhoods, left hanging pamphlets on door knobs, and called registered voters in phone banking drives. When they encountered registered voters unable to drive to the local polling place, volunteers literally drove voters to the polls. Volunteers also stood watch at seven different precincts counting the numbers of Muslims and Arabs who turned out.
The New American Democracy Project (NADP), a fellowship program sponsored by CAIR-Chicago, Mosque Foundation, and the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR), has focused their GOTV Campaign on Chicago's southwest suburbs of Bridgeview, Lyons, Palos Hills, Worth and Oak Lawn. Over the last few months, NADP's voter registration drives in this area lead to the registration of more than 1,200 new voters for this year's election.
Over a Hundred Volunteers
This dedicated team did not halt their efforts after the registration deadline. NADP Fellow, Nadia Abusumayah, along with over 100 volunteers, continued the Get Out the Vote campaign until polls closed Tuesday evening. Along with CAIR-Chicago's staff, the volunteer team also included dozens of students from the nearby Islamic schools, Aqsa School and Universal School.
Most of these volunteers were under 18 years old and thus ineligible to vote. Abusumayah recalled how one man asked a young volunteer why a teenager would care so much about voting, and the youth responded "because I cannot vote, I need you to vote for me."
Thousands Contacted, Record Turnout
Their hard work is certainly reflected in the results. In Bridgeview's precinct 44, for example, 420 Arabs and Muslims came out and voted this year as opposed to the 180 in 2004.
"I think our whole GOTV campaign, and having our youth out there phone banking and knocking on doors - it brought a lot of awareness to the community and showed people the importance of voting," said Abusumayah. "It really empowered individuals by explaining to them that their vote is their voice. That is why so many did come out and vote in record numbers."
NADP's phone banking efforts reached 2,000 people, and volunteers knocked on close to 1,000 doors.
Every Vote Counts
One volunteer, Nahida Abdallah, knocked on the door of an elderly woman and asked her if she was going to vote. The woman said that although she wanted to, she was suffering from cancer and her poor health made it too difficult to drive to the polls. Nahida then drove the woman to the local polling place, affording her the opportunity to vote for the first time in over 25 years.
"I was so happy that we drove her to the polls. Even if it's just one person, it means a lot," said Abdallah. "Everyone should be able to exercise their rights and take part in this great democratic system."