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An Interview with Karam: Registering to vote is easy, but the job can be hard.

Karam at the Sikh temple with an elderly woman who brought her son over to help register her to vote

California Planned Parenthood Education Fund’s (CPPEF) My Vote, My Voice campaign is an inspiring effort to get as many Californians registered to vote before the state deadline of October 24th. Register online today!

Their field staff have worked tirelessly, promoting CPPEF’s message of non-partisan support for the election and reaching out to traditionally underserved communities. Today CPPEF highlights the voice of one outstanding staff member.

Karam, who works out of Sacramento, has continually showed success in her efforts, targeting regions that have a high discrepancy between eligible and actually registered voters. Read her responses below:

Why is voter registration important to you?

Voter registration is important to me because of the years and years of blood, sweat, and tears that it has taken to get to the point where I, a woman of color, am able to facilitate voter registration.

People of color and women have been systemically oppressed in countless ways in this country since its inception, and the issue of voting has been no exception. From the literacy tests and polling taxes, violence and intimidation that drove the most vulnerable from the polls in the 20th century, to the requirements for identification and bans of early voting that disenfranchise the poor and disabled today, voting has long been a right only for white men, and a privilege for everyone else.

I know how important it is to me to see representation in this country. To be that representation for others who fear exclusion of people of color is an honor.

What issues have you encountered in the field and how have you solved them?

Many people that I have asked to register to vote have expressed the opinion that their vote does not count, or that they do not care for either of the presidential candidates.

To combat this, I do not engage in any kind of altercation or argument. Instead, I make a simple statement, such as, "If you don't want to vote for president, there are still state and local elections that are very important," and then simply telling people to have a good day. I find that this approach gives people something to think about without feeling attacked, and, more often than not, they end up registering to vote.

What has been the most meaningful experience for you in this campaign so far?

The most meaningful experience for me in this voter registration drive was the first time I did voter registration at a Sikh temple, or gurdwara. I was surprised at how easy it was to get permission to set up a table at the gurdwara, and how welcoming and helpful everyone was when I arrived.

But the biggest shock was how many elderly women who barely spoke English and have been citizens for only a few years came up to my table, spoke to me in their first language, Punjabi, and insisted on registering to vote. What's more, most of them had a solid grasp of the issues at stake in this election. I accept fault for the bias I had going in, and the assumption that people would not be politically informed or interested.

But I want to dedicate my life to the empowerment of women of color; and the voter registration card after voter registration card that I helped women who reminded me of my grandmothers fill out was enough to bring tears to my eyes, extinguish my assumptions with humility, and cement Sunday, September 25, 2016, as the proudest day of my life to date.

Thank you, Karam, for your inspiring efforts to help register voters for the upcoming elections on November 8th.

Have you registered to vote yet? It’s easy – register online today.

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