Kent Black Action Commission gets $15,000 grant to increase voter engagement

Paul Addis, a Kent City Council candidate, talks to Juan Vega, director of voter registration for KBAC (Kent Black Action Commission) and Hempfest, during the Juneteenth festival on June 17 at Morrill Meadows Park. Vega has participated in the event for each of its six years. KBAC had a voter registration booth at the celebration. MARK KLAAS, Kent Reporter

The Kent Black Action Commission received a $15,000 grant to help increase voter engagement in the black/African American and African communities.

King County Elections and Seattle Foundation announced last month the recipients of $435,000 in grants for voter engagement in communities that are historically underrepresented in the democratic process.

“That’s happy news, good news,” said Gwen Allen-Carston, executive director of KBAC. “It’s all about voter registration and to get people more engaged.”

KBAC was formed in 2011 to improve and promote the social, economic, political, spiritual and educational conditions of the black community in Kent and South King County.

A total of 30 community-based organizations will receive funds to offer basic education about voting in the county and technical assistance, such as helping voters complete a voter registration form. The Seattle Foundation, composed of community philanthropists committed to causes at the local, national and global levels, funded the project.

“I’m thrilled with the diversity of organizations being funded this year and the exciting plans to support voting in their communities,” said Julie Wise, director of King County Elections, in a media release. “We’re committed to improving voting access, especially in what is an important local election year for King County.”

The fund offered community-based organizations the opportunity to apply for up to $25,000 to develop a nine-month campaign to engage voters or potential voters, and up to $10,000 to provide a series of smaller events.

“Our democracy truly thrives when everyone participates, and participating through voting is one of our nation’s highest values,” said Tony Mestres, president and CEO of Seattle Foundation. “The recipients of these Voter Education Funds represent diverse communities and work to engage those communities in the most important part of being a citizen: using their voice.”

The Kent group received funds for its Our Vote, Our Voice project, said Kafia Hosh, spokeswoman for King County Elections. All of the applicants were required to submit a plan.

KBAC plans to use the funds for voter registration and information booths at community events; help create a curriculum on voter registration and civic engagement with the Kent School District; host mock elections and debates at the middle and high school levels; and host a candidates forum for the Kent City Council and the Kent mayoral races.

“It’s a great opportunity,” Allen-Carston said. “We’re glad to be a part of it. We’re hoping to have good success.”

Organizations receiving funding attended a recent training workshop at King County Elections.

The Voter Education Fund was created after a successful pilot to engage communities that speak a language other than English. Last year, King County Elections and Seattle Foundation awarded $224,000 in grants to community-based organizations. Through their voter outreach activities, the organizations reached 27,000 limited-English-speaking voters across the county.

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