“Your vote does count,” says Gulfport Votes 100% founder Ingrid Bredenberg. “Now is not the time to get complacent.”
Voter turnout in Gulfport for the August 18 primary was about 31 percent, says Bredenberg. In the 2016 presidential election, 80 percent of the Gulfport population voted. The community organization, Gulfport Votes 100%, is aiming for just that: total voter participation in Gulfport on November 3.
“There is a lot more engagement now. It’s important not just to vote in several elections but to vote in all elections, “ she said, “which has the most impact on people’s lives.”
One of the ways Bredenberg and her organization plans to engage voters is through participation in events and partnerships that can help reach voters, including existing partner the League of Women Voters of the St. Petersburg Area, and the group’s two newest allies, the LGBTQ Resource Center and Gulfport Supports Black Lives Matter.
The LGBTQ Resource Center at the Gulfport Public Library will kick off events on National Voter Registration Day, September 22, from 4 to 7 p.m. in the library garden. People can get information about voting at tables set in the LGBTQ Resource Center and the library.
“The LGBTQ Resource Center is pleased to be a strategic partner in the Gulfport Votes 100% endeavor,” says Greg Stemm, a member of the LGBTQ Resource Center Board of Directors. “LGBTQ individuals have a long history of being marginalized in the voting process. We believe it is critical that all Gulfport voices be heard in this upcoming election but especially those in our sizable gay population. Our very lives and livelihoods may depend on the outcome.”
Another historically marginalized voting bloc is the Black community, and Gulfport’s Black Lives Matter movement is reaching out to the community to attend events and join in the fight against systemic racism through voting.
“After joining the Gulfport Votes 100% group, I shifted my activism for the Black Lives Matter movement to encourage voting, focusing on the Black citizens of Gulfport,” says Natashia Milburn, founder of BLM Solidarity in Gulfport.
Milburn also founded the Gulfport Supports BLM Facebook group, which started as a social media outlet to discuss and participate in the BLM movement.
Gulfport’s Black Lives Matter organizers will host “Rock the Vote, Craftivities That Rock” at next Gulfport Historical Society Porch Party on October 9. Kids can paint rocks with a voting message to place around town urging people to vote, along with other activities and information on voting and the Gulfport community.
The all-outdoors porch party is hosted by Gulfport Votes 100% with appearances by Captain Vote and Tanya Turnout.
“We can do this in a safe and engaging way,” says Bredenberg, “while encouraging people to vote.”
Gulfport Votes 100% will have a presence at other local events such as the First Friday Art Walk on October 2 and the Tuesday Fresh Market. They are in discussions to add more swag, such as visors, in addition to their gecko-green Gulfport Votes 100 stickers and bumper stickers that will be available in Gulfport shops.
And they are looking for Gulfportians to make 10-second nonpartisan vignettes showing vote-by-mail, in person and early voting for a three-minute video about different ways to vote in fun and creative ways. The video will feature an original song by Berkeley Grimball for the soundtrack. Want to get involved? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
“There are plenty of elections that came down to just a few votes,” says Bredenberg. “That is why getting everyone involved and getting everyone to vote is so important.”
For more information, find Gulfport Votes 100 on Facebook.