Letter to the Editor: Transportation is an unseen barrier to voting

by The Black Wall Street Times
tulsa

From Tommy Yap

Executive Director, Tulsa Voter Van

tulsa

oters fill out their ballots at a primary polling place, Saturday, Feb. 29, 2020, in Charleston, S.C. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Voter equity is about more than voter access. When we think of access, we think of getting people registered and making sure people can get to a notary. Equity, however, is filling in gaps and overcoming unseen barriers. Tulsa Voter Van is a voter equity program, and our core service is voter transportation

Tulsa is predominantly accessible via personal vehicle. I want to tell you two stories where that has failed voters (names have been changed).

Janette

Janette called us asking for a ride and noted that she didn’t live far from her polling location, which we expressed didn’t bother us. When we arrived, we realized she meant literally across the street and down a block. She had called us because although she lived so close, her polling location was across Garnett, and the nearest crosswalk was a distance.

Combined with her bad hip, the perceived short distance was a significant trek. When she climbed in the car, she was exceedingly grateful because we had saved her a $7 Uber fare; $7 she was willing to pay to vote. 

Clara

Clara, an elderly woman, had walked to the closest polling location to her home, thinking that would be hers. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. Her actual polling location, Rudisill Library, was further down the way. Having seen our information, a library employee called us to come with aid. We picked up Clara at the location she was at, took her to Rudisill, and promptly took her home.

Clara didn’t have a vehicle and relied on walking and the rides of others. Confusion and distance could have kept her from voting that day, but were we able to close that gap for her, and she was able to vote. Like our other riders, Clara was incredibly grateful and amazed that a service like ours existed. 

We believe in assisting voters on the last mile of voting, meaning we help people get their ballots in the ballot box.  Our goal is to reduce the overlooked barriers people experience when trying to vote. We look forward to continuing our mission for the election on June 8th. To request a ride from Tulsa Voter Van, call 918-200-9153

Tommy Yap, executive director of Tulsa Voter Van.

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