Some guests dining at The Community Table on Monday got more than a free hot meal.
If interested, they got guidance and information about voting and additional bus passes so they could cast their ballot today.
“Our goal is to get as many people out to vote,” said Michelle Koehn, executive director of The Community Table, which provides one free meal a day to anyone in need of a hot meal and hospitality
To help with that, she invited volunteers with Chippewa Valley Votes to The Community Table to educate guests and answer questions.
Chippewa Valley Votes volunteers also travel around the area to provide advocacy, education, outreach, training, voter assistance and voter registration.
Carol Craig, involved in organizing voter registration initiatives for CVV, has been to The Community Table several times in recent weeks. During that time CVV assisted or registered more than 40 people, she said.
One of those was a convicted felon who for years thought he could no longer vote, Craig said. However, his rights had been restored, and he was eligible to vote again.
“There is an information gap out there,” said Craig, and she and others are trying to change that. “For this man, you could see ‘I want to vote’ in his eyes. It was a really moving experience for me.”
On Monday, CVV volunteer Karen Voss went table to table at The Community Table to talk to diners, offer assistance and answer their questions.
One of those diners was Kevin Johnson of Eau Claire. In the past, Johnson has been registered to vote and has voted. However, this spring he moved before the April general election and didn’t get a chance to re-register for that election.
However, he has completed the necessary requirements to vote today, and Johnson, whose parents were regular voters, is planning to cast his ballot today.
“Everything is a go,” he said with a grin on his face after talking to Voss. “I feel it’s my duty and my responsibility to vote, and I think every person who can vote should.”
Bob Tenney, a volunteer at The Community Table, also plans to vote today, and he has persuaded his significant other and her brother to do the same.
“It’s your God-given right to vote,” said Tenney of Eau Claire, who has voted in all major elections for more than four decades. “Some people think that their vote might not count, but it does.”
However, when hurdles are placed in front of people, that makes it more difficult for hem to cast their ballots, Voss said.
“I see some of the challenges our guests have,” she said. Those include homelessness, a lack of knowing where to vote and no transportation to and from the polls.
Thanks to the generosity of Debbie Gough and First Congregational United Church of Christ, The Community Table provided diners with additional bus passes to get them to and from the voting booth today, Koehn said. (This is in addition to TCT’s regular bus pass program.)
Hoping to remove additional barriers, she invited Chippewa Valley Votes to The Community Table.
“Our purpose isn’t to push a political agenda, party or candidate,” said Koehn, who also has been encouraging TCT volunteers to vote. “We just want everyone to participate.”
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