Fair Michigan is a nonprofit LGBTQ advocacy organization that works to secure equal rights protections under the law based on sexual orientation, sex, gender identity and gender. Now, the group is focusing its efforts on a voter participation effort intended to engage and empower LGBTQ people in Detroit, with a special emphasis on people of color. Victim Advocate and Director of Transgender Outreach and Advocacy for Fair Michigan Julisa Abad is working spearhead this movement by providing accurate information to LGBTQ people across the city about how to vote.
“We know the climate that we’re in and the importance of voting. A lot of my community, specifically the LGBTQ community and trans women of color, are really misinformed about different things when it comes to voting,” Abad said. “For example, if you are on parole, people are under the assumption that you can’t vote, if you’re on probation they think that you can’t vote. People also don’t know that if they are in or out of jail awaiting to be sentenced they can still vote.”
For LGBTQ people, particularly those who identify as transgender or nonbinary, getting to the polls can be difficult. In fact, the Williams Institute — an LGBTQ research center and UCLA think tank —reports that 21 percent of LGBTQ Americans are not registered to vote. Abad says many factors contribute to this reality.
“A lot of people that don’t have documentation that matches [with their gender identity] might feel scared to go to a place to vote and be discriminated against or might not even know where to vote or where to register,” Abad said. “I’m trying to get the word out there that can go to Michigan.gov/vote. On there, you can see where you’re registered to vote and if you’re registered to vote. If people are registered to vote, great. They can walk in on election day where it tells them to vote on the website. If they’re not, I want to also let them know that they can go into their clerk’s office, [register to vote], request a ballot and vote right then and there and they don’t have to wait.”
Ultimately, Abad said, dispelling myths about voting is vital to getting everyone’s voice heard in this and future elections.
“I don’t care who you believe in or what you vote for, but I want everyone in my community to get out there and have their voices heard,” Abad said.