By Emma Kivlin
A voting registration event turned block party was hosted Sunday, September 23 by local political nonprofit Indivisible Bellingham.
Indivisible Bellingham prides themselves on hosting events that all members of the community can enjoy, instead catering to the interests of specific groups of people, said event coordinator Kevin Leja.
The event, the Your Vote Counts! Block Party, was held in Depot Market Square in downtown Bellingham.
The event was created to raise awareness locally about voting in general, as well as to draw attention to voting in this year’s midterm elections, Leja said. This year’s midterms feature initiatives that focus on firearms, law enforcement, pollution and taxation.
The Your Vote Counts! Block Party was strategically planned during Western’s Welcome Week in anticipation of new students and their families, Leja said.
Complete with live music from groups such as the Lummi Blackhawk Dancers, Bob Fossil, Robert Sarazin Blake and Heroes, Leja said he wanted to make sure the event would appeal to a large audience. The block party was advertised as a family-friendly function and had a turnout of families and students alike, as it included food trucks, a beer garden, local music and voter registration tables.
Various tables were set up with representatives from political groups, art displays and activities for families. Adults and teens were able to learn more about politics and local art while younger kids played with toys and facepaint a few booths over.
Indivisible Bellingham had their own station with volunteers to help attendees register to vote or check their registration status online.
Also featured at the event was local group, HomesNow!, an organization focused on helping the homeless population of Whatcom county find housing. They showcased their new ADA accessible shower truck at the event, which is intended to provide a warm place for the local homeless community to shower.
The event was also co-sponsored by local activism and political groups, including Students for Action, Whatcom Moms Demand Action, Mt. Baker Planned Parenthood and Washington Conservation Voters.
Given that Indivisible Bellingham is a nonpartisan organization that prefers to endorse specific issues instead of political sides, Leja said it was crucial for the group to pick speakers who weren’t promoting specific views or candidates.
Leja said he and the members of Indivisible Bellingham wanted the event to encourage people, especially young people who are new to the area, to register to vote and learn more about their own voting rights. Leja said he believes this would encourage a greater number of people in Bellingham to participate politically as they would feel more freedom to talk about their beliefs openly.
Leja highlighted the importance of the group’s focus on diversity in all forms.
“We should all be fighting for progress,” he said.
*Updated 2:22 p.m., 9/28 for clarity and AP style.