We talked with the folks behind the Vote Equity campaign to imagine racial equity in the elections and beyond.

By Ellie Mejía

(Photo: Andrea Hart)

(Photo: Andrea Hart)

On February 21, we gathered in Build Coffee for our 94th Public Newsroom, led by Niketa Brar, executive director of Chicago United for Equity, and Beatriz Ponce de León, executive director of Generation All. Both organizations are part of a coalition leading the Vote Equity project, a voter engagement campaign seeking to bring racial equity to the forefront of the elections.

Our two hosts explained the process: Organizations and individuals across the city submitted their ideas to make Chicago more racially equitable. Then, folks in all 50 wards voted over 52,000 times to rank their policy preferences. The top 50 ideas were sent to candidates, whose responses to each can be found in CUE’s Voter Guide for Racial Equity.

Ponce de León stressed the importance of vetting policy ideas from many different people across the city. “This isn’t like other voter guides. It’s not just one organization’s recommendations. We wanted to make it democratic,” she said.

With the voter guide out and Election Day days away, the workshop gave us an opportunity to brainstorm how to put this information to use and explore possible next steps for the project, even after the polls close.

After looking at a sample idea ballot and the voter guides, attendees teamed up to imagine they were running the Vote Equity campaign. Their recommendations included targeting specific communities around schools and places of worship, translating the voter guide beyond Spanish and turning the guide into a report card for public officials in order to keep track of their commitment to these ideas.

“I loved seeing folks engage with the tool and seeing how they used the paper and online voter guide together,” said Brar, “After spending so much time building this, it was really rewarding to hear the thoughts of those we were hoping to impact in this process.”

If you want to put these resources to use, check out the Vote Equity project online, and make sure to share it with your friends, family and community! An earlier City Bureau project suggests that Chicagoans want to learn more about the elections from conversations with people they already know.

And after the runoff, you can still use this information to see how candidates responded and hold them accountable to their word.

In the meantime, feel free to listen to the presentation recording on our Spreaker (above), check out Brar and Ponce de León’s slides (below), and learn more about the organizations that make up the Vote Equity campaign here.

We’ll see you February 28 at the same time, same place. We’ll be talking campaign finance reform with the folks at Reform for Illinois.

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