This election season has been a bit chaotic — to say the least. From pandemic complications, inaccurate voting instructions from the White House, absentee ballot disarray — some voters are confused. And marginalized communities, especially, may feel left out of the loop.
On a sunny Tuesday afternoon in Wilmington, there’s music coming from the YWCA Lower Cape Fear parking lot.
It’s a celebration of National Voter Registration Day: a cheery deviation from a notably contentious election year. Jhaniqua Palmer, who’s with the YWCA, tells me they’re hosting a drive-thru voter registration event.
“We wanted for it to be kind of like a party, because sometimes when you say ‘voter’ and you talk about politics, people get a little intimidated.”
Velva Jenkins is the YWCA chapter’s CEO. She says voters and would-be voters seem to feel especially intimidated this year:
“We are seeing some confusion and also fear with the coronavirus. The pandemic has got people afraid.”
That’s why this election year concerns Jhaniqua Palmer. She says many people don’t have access to voting resources, or don’t know where to look. And that, on top of changes due to COVID-19, can cause discouragement.
“We had a couple of people who drove up to sign up, and I had one guy who just said, ‘Where do I vote at?’ And if people who have cars and transportation don't know where to vote at, I couldn't imagine people who don't have cars and transportation.
“And not only do they know where to vote, how are they going to get there? Who's going to watch the kids. Are they going to have to take time off from work? Is it going to be paid time off? I think it's difficult. I think marginalized communities definitely struggle with figuring all of this out.”
Velva Jenkins says that on election day, the YWCA chapter will be partnering with the NAACP to provide transportation to the polls.
Until then, the group will be here at their location on South College Road, ready to extend voter resources to those who may need it.
The voter registration deadline is Friday, Oct. 9. Absentee ballots must be requested by Tuesday, Oct. 27, and must be postmarked by Tuesday, Nov. 3, or returned in person by 5 p.m. on Nov. 3.