In a series over the next few weeks, we’re featuring a few of the recipients of our Voter Education Fund who make a difference in our communities.
Voter education can take on many different forms, helping meet people’s needs through creative and meaningful ways. For Being Empowered thru Supportive Transitions (BEST), this means providing services and education to formerly incarcerated people that assist in their reentry efforts and help them understand their restored voting rights.
“We support former incarcerated persons with mentoring services, guiding them thru the complex systems of society to help them overcome some of the barriers and impacts of collateral consequences,” says Reverend Jimmie James, Executive Director of BEST.
Rev. Jimmie shares that reintegration efforts to welcome formerly incarcerated people back into their communities as valued members sets them up for success, and that voter education is essential to help them feel empowered to create societal change.
“This work is important for us to do because we have seen people affected by the criminal justice system fail to be successful in their reentry efforts,” he said. “Voter education is one of the most important ways this community can have a direct impact on their lives and become participants in the change they need and desire.”
A first time participant in the Voter Education Fund (VEF), Rev. Jimmie had worked with other agencies involved in VEF and knew that BEST had to get involved to help this community make an impact.
“It is a first step towards helping people returning from incarceration realize they are part of the community though voter participation and can make change,” he said.
The positive outcomes of this work, a community taking steps to change their lives through the right to vote, also relies on the good intentions of others. Rev. Jimmie explains how other people can support BEST’s work and help formerly incarcerated people to be successful in their reentry and voting efforts.
“Talk to your neighbors about being sure they’re registered and vote, or hold voting and ballot parties,” he said. “Have the courage to get to know your neighbors and find out more about what people’s needs and issues are, and talk about solutions with one another.”
The work being done through the Voter Education Fund is distinct in that it allows people from all over King County get involved to raise awareness about voting, voter’s rights and the power of elections. Rev. Jimmie hopes to see this work expanded throughout the community, to reach even more people.
“I think there needs to be more initiatives to make this type of activity expand,” he said. “People need more access and information to know that they have the opportunity to vote and make changes themselves through the political process.”
BEST was created in 2015 as a 501(c)3 as an offshoot of the original non-profit HOPE. The new organization adds community engagement and policy change efforts to its service delivery of mentoring former prisoners.
Learn more about BEST on their Facebook page and read about how the VEF is making a difference in our community at the King County Elections website. For more information about felony voting rights here in Washington State, read this post on our Election Connection blog.