Local Volunteers Focus Their Efforts on the Minority Vote

By Nadia Crow, Reporter

Audience members hold up giant letters spelling "VOTE" at a campaign rally for President Barack Obama's reelection at Washington Park on Saturday, Nov. 3, 2012, in Dubuque. (Liz Martin/The Gazette-KCRG)


By Liz Blood

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - The last weekend before the election means campaign volunteers will knock on doors and make their final phone calls. A group of volunteers focus their efforts on the minoriy vote: African Americans, Latinos, and Asians.

"Lots of people have been knocking on our doors,” said Word of Faith Pentecostal Church Senior Pastor Wendell Beets.

Volunteers from campaigns frequently stop by Word of Faith Pentecostal Church on the southwest side of Cedar Rapids. It’s a predominantly black church where sounds of worship bellow through the building Sunday morning.

"We don't tell people who to vote for, but we give them information about the individuals that are running,” said Beets.

People like Rebecca Grant who works for the Obama Campaign.

"I'm out there knocking on doors going to the black businesses, barber shops, and beauty shops,” said Obama Campaign Team Member Rebecca Grant.

The goal is to collect as many absentee ballots from people who might not have made it to the polls.

"I got thousands and thousands out of that,” said Grant.

To be exact, Grant's gathered 4,000 absentee ballots the grassroots way. But it's not just about the black vote.

"Es muy importante que vayan a votar,” said volunteer Iliana Rodriguez.

Iliana Rodriguez helps the Latino or Hispanic population understand the issues and know their rights.

"Where do they need to go vote, how can they get registered to vote,” Rodriguez.

Spanish-speaking voters present simple questions but a language barrier creates obstacles. That's where Rodriguez steps in.

"Something they don't know or don't understand some terminology so I try to explain and translate, of course,” said Rodriguez.

To reach that growing population, some polling places have bilingual signs and staff. Senior Pastor Wendell Beets reminds his congregation it wasn’t too long ago when minorities couldn’t vote at all.

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