The Vote is America’s most powerful tool for change. When organized and implemented collectively, votes change the leadership of the world’s greatest nation. Don’t doubt that this powerful tool can change your world, it can.
It’s election year. The power of a single vote was never seen so plainly as during the last presidential election. However, the vote carries power to make change every day, particularly during lengthy legislative processes. A voter’s voice, when multiplied through coalition and partnering voices, speaks directive and promise, or defeat, to your legislators every day of any year.
It’s time to invest in creating an empowered mental health voter bloc together through “I Vote. I Count!” Campaign 2004.
“But, I’ve called my representatives,” you may say. “We hold a mental health day at our statehouse annually and our voice is left unanswered. Our services are cutback dramatically. How can we change things? What’s the key?”
As long as elected officials exist, voters have power for political change. There are proven methods of effective voter organization that have changed many states/localities. The keys to turn it on are:
Find out about voter registration in your locality. It is simple. A grassroots leader who makes the Vote happen is never without registration forms or the ability to educate others on signing up! But remember, registration alone is a very small part of building a powerful mental health voter bloc.
Develop another paper tool: create a form to capture names and contact information (especially e-mail addresses) of interested allies and concerned voters in your state. Use it to sign people up wherever you go, whenever you speak, and when possible at conventions and seminars of other organizations. Greater numbers of voters acting together can change the vote of greater numbers of legislators from all across the state or nation.
Tell people about the great need for people with mental illness striving for recovery in a system in shambles. Ask if they would be a part of changing America’s failure of nearly 18 million adults and over 8 million young Americans living with serious mental disorders. Get their names/information and add them to your growing list. Secure these contacts in a database, computerized or manual.
You have to make friends. Talk to people and organizations that share the vision for people living in recovery in their communities. New partners might include law enforcement leaders, AARP, PTAs, business leaders and/or primary healthcare givers, such as nurses, and emergency room physicians.
You may already have mental health coalitions organized to invite these new partners to join. If not, still capture their names and contact information for voter advocacy. They may not share their entire contact list with you (when you first ask for it), but would be willing to pass along urgent voter action alerts when the time comes.
NAMI will be providing support in materials to use after the first of the year and technical assistance on issues and action steps during this year’s voter empowerment campaign.
Selecting which policy priorities weigh in the heaviest in your area or state is the process you and your coalition/partnering colleagues must make. For suggested guidelines see the Campaign policy objectives.
If you have not registered under Advocacy in the Five Fronts of the Campaign do it now.
It’s time to swing the vote. The empowered mental health voter bloc can and will make the difference. Let’s act together and roll it out!