Zaporah Price, Contributing Reporter

The New Haven Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority and the Epsilon Iota Iota Chapter of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity co-hosted a voting education forum on Wednesday evening.

Over 70 community members gathered via Zoom to hear from four panelists working in Connecticut and New Haven. The panel, titled “Understanding the Power of Your Vote: What Does Your Vote Do For You?” aimed to encourage communities of color to vote. 

Panelists included Bridgeport Mayor’s Initiative for Reentry Affairs Director Earl Bloodworth, State Rep. Bobby Gibson, New Haven President of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Doris Dumas and Ella’s Fund political action committee chairperson Karimah Webber. Panelists were asked a series of questions by two moderators, and then answered questions from the audience.

“Your vote is your power, it’s your voice,” Dumas told listeners.

Throughout the event, Zoom polls asked participants questions such as whether Connecticut allows same day voter registration and if participants felt their communities understood the power of their 15th Amendment rights.

Dumas answered questions about the importance of voting and cited methods about how to increase youth voter representation. She spoke about various campaigns the NAACP New Haven chapter has led in previous weeks — such as encouraging voter registration. Dumas also said that the NAACP has been disseminating information about voting policies in Connecticut and holding forums on the importance of voting for youth — who will be encouraged to volunteer and make calls with the NAACP if they are not yet able to vote themselves.

In an interview with the News, Dumas said that since the deadline for mail-in and online voter registration is Oct. 27, the NAACP will now focus its efforts on canvassing in New Haven. She said this includes phonebanking and offering rides to the polls on Election Day. Dumas said that plans exist for volunteers to be stationed at polling places on Nov. 3 — encouraging community members to vote and passing out snacks. Dumas said that the NAACP wants to make sure people are “comfortable” and “keeping their energy up” on Election Day.

“Our whole plan, our effort and our energy is going towards getting people to the polls,” Dumas told the News.

Another New Haven organization, Ella’s Fund PAC, hopes to empower community members in the Elm City and Hamden to vote.

Webber — the chairperson of Ella’s Fund — was present at Wednesday’s panel to introduce the PAC to community members and to specifically encourage people of color to hit the polls.

“Helping [our communities of color] to realize that the things that are frustrating you, the things that you say you feel powerless about, are the very things that you have control over if you exercise your right to vote,” Webber said during the panel.

Because Ella’s Fund is not a federal PAC, Webber underscored the importance of local politics and state elections in furthering its goals. She said that community members should get involved with their local legislatures and organizations immediately and that Ella’s Fund would be there to show them that leadership positions were accessible at the local and state levels.

Even after Nov. 3, Webber said that Ella’s Fund will keep advocating for Black and brown community members to show up at their local board and commission meetings. She also said that the PAC will continue its efforts in raising funds to “eliminate the barriers for running for office” for people of color.

Webber called for participants to support Ella’s Fund by donating to the PAC and by looking at their website. She said that the PAC will tell legislators to “make space for people of color and the issues that we care about.”

At the end of the event, President of the Delta Sigma Theta chapter in New Haven Paula Irvin thanked participants for joining the call and told them to share the information with their families, friends and fellow community members.

“I am hopeful that all attending the panel this evening gain a better understanding of why voting in all elections matters and how it impacts them down to a local level,” Irvin told the News in an emailed statement. “We are less than two weeks from Election Day and there has been a daily push to increase voter turnout as well as voter and civic education in our community.”

Members of the sorority told listeners that their next step should be to create a voting action plan, especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. The sorority encouraged the audience to be safe and wear masks if they were going to vote in-person.

The New Haven Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority was chartered in 1959.

Zaporah Price | zaporah.price@yale.edu