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Voter registration drive under way in Near Westside neighborhood

October 02, 2009

Jemeli Tanui
(315) 443-5172

Residents and friends from the Near Westside neighborhood of Syracuse are campaigning hard to register new voters from their community in time for the upcoming Nov. 3 Syracuse mayoral election.

The Near Westside neighborhood is an area adjacent to Syracuse’s Armory Square, bordered by West Fayette Street to the north, Delaware/West Onondaga Street to the south, South West Street to the east and South Geddes Street to the west.

A voter registration drive will take place Saturday, Oct. 3, from 3-5 p.m., with resident volunteers from the neighborhood and community partners doing door-to-door canvassing.

The voter registration campaign started in September, after results of the September primary elections showed that only 3 percent of the neighborhood’s 3,000 eligible voters turned out to vote. In order to be eligible to vote in the mayoral race, residents must be registered by Oct. 9, according to the Onondaga County Board of Elections.

“We know that many politicians look at voter registration numbers when they do research before addressing community needs,” says Sheena Solomon, program officer at the Gifford Foundation and one of the voter registration coordinators. “We feel strongly that registering voters, followed by providing opportunities for residents to learn more about the candidates, are the first steps toward seeing policy change that will positively affect the Near Westside neighborhood.”

Of the 7,127 residents of the Near Westside, 5,215 are eligible to vote, but only 239, merely 4.5 percent, are registered to vote. These numbers are based on the most recent census data and the Onondaga County Board of Elections tallies.

“This grassroots effort by residents of the Near Westside neighborhood to empower the community through active civic engagement is a great step toward our ongoing campaign to see this part of Syracuse become the thriving culturally rich place it once was,” says Michael Short, a senior SU student in the dual political science and public communication program housed within the Maxwell School and The College of Arts and Sciences. Short is helping organize the registration drive, along with the Near Westside Initiative. Neighborhood partners participating in this campaign include Hillside, Syracuse Habitat for Humanity, NoJaim Brothers Supermaket, the Rosamond Gifford Foundation, SU’s Office of Community Engagement and Economic Development, Blodgett School and other Near Westside organizations and businesses. Teams of students, some bilingual, from Morrisville State College will assist with Saturday’s canvassing.

“We had a very successful neighborhood mayoral debate in August, so we’re hoping a successful voter registration drive will send the message that we have a voice, and we know people are listening to us,” says Carole Horan, a resident of the Near Westside neighborhood.

To volunteer in the voter registration drive, meet the Near Westside residents at 3 p.m. outside St. Lucy’s Church’s parking lot at 432 Gifford St. Food will be served at the church after the canvassing effort.

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