How You Can Help Safeguard Our Elections To Protect Our Environment

Much of my career has been focused on protecting the right to vote. As the Sierra Club’s National Director of Policy, Advocacy and Legal, I’ve spent decades fighting for democracy, environmental justice, and racial justice among many other things. In 2004, I was the National Field Director for the Voter Protection Campaign of the DNC. I volunteered for voter protection in Cleveland, my hometown, every presidential cycle. And in 2020, I was the Co-Chair of the Election Protection Committee of the National Bar Association (the nation’s oldest association of Black lawyers) and we deployed lawyers and laypeople across the country.

Together, we all have a role to play to defend voting rights -- no matter where you live, what your background is, or how much experience you have, you can play a critical role. Ensuring a safe, secure, accessible, and democratic voting process in 2022 is more important than ever. 

We're just about nine weeks until the midterm elections are over and democracy-defending volunteers are needed! Here are two national nonpartisan programs where you can get involved:

  1. Election Protection Program: With a variety of roles from poll monitoring to social media monitoring, Election Protection volunteers help connect voters to professionals via the voter hotline to troubleshoot and navigate complicated or confusing voting rules. This has been a successful program for decades run by a nonpartisan coalition of groups.
  2. Become a Poll Worker: Through the program Power the Polls, get connected to your local jurisdiction to become a paid poll worker. Get involved in your community by supporting early voting locations, ensuring technology functions, and helping minimize long lines and delays at polling places on Election Day. 

Check out our new page to learn more about each program and then sign up for a role  that best fits you. Get started today! 

Once you sign up on that program's website, you'll be contacted by coalition coordinators to get you started and trained.

Voter suppression isn’t new, and it is directly tied to our ability to fight for a safe and healthy environment for everyone. Through my decades of experience working with environmental justice communities, it’s been clear that people who are living in places with the worst pollution in the country -- like Cancer Alley in Louisiana, the Houston Ship Channel and cities like Detroit and Flint -- are some of the same people experiencing rampant voter suppression. The way we fight back against these attacks on our democracy and our neighbors of color is to show up in solidarity and be better accomplices. A thriving democracy means we are connected to each other's liberation.

I’ve volunteered as a poll monitor for the last 18 years, working to make sure everyone has equitable access to the ballot box. Much of the role of poll monitor volunteers is troubleshooting. For example, issues may arise for folks who are disabled. Sometimes the ramps to polling places are not stable and I've had to find a hammer and nails to bang ramps back in place! Sometimes it was giving people rides to the polls. Often it is a matter of simply keeping people in line during long wait times to vote and caring about them as people, such as saving their place in line so they can go to the restroom, as they exercise their civic duty.

We are stronger together, which is why I’m personally asking you to join me in helping ensure a safe and democratic voting process. 

You don't need to have any special skills to be a poll worker or a poll monitor through the Election Protection program. You’ll be trained and given resources to help protect the vote, and there are options to volunteer both from home and in person. 

Each program is a little different so check out our new page explaining these options, read the FAQs, and then I hope you'll join me in signing up to protect and defend our democracy!

We must protect our democracy because the United States should be a place where everyone counts and where every vote is counted. We can’t have democracy if votes are suppressed. And we can’t save the environment if folks living in the most polluted communities can’t vote to elect leaders who will fight for them.

Being a nonpartisan Election Protection volunteer or a poll worker is one of the most important things we can do to protect our democracy -- and in turn, our environment.