National Voter Registration Day Celebration at Wheeler District

By Paris Lawson | Broadcast and Digital Reporter |

Against the picturesque backdrop of the Oklahoma City skyline, the flashing lights of the Wheeler District Ferris Wheel and to the rhythmic beat of Thunder Drummers in the background, Rock the Native Vote and Voto Latino teamed up to celebrate National Voter Registration Day in the best way possible – with a voter registration drive.

Visitors to the park observed the nationally recognized day by riding the Ferris Wheel, indulging in tamales and fry bread and, of course, registering to vote. With the deadline to register for the November 3 election rapidly approaching, both Rock the Native Vote and Voto Latino put their teams to work to make the most out of the day that was made official in Oklahoma City by the mayor himself.

They had the sealed proclamation to prove it.

“For our people, the Native community and Hispanic/Latino, we are probably amongst the status of being those who don't participate in elections, registering and voting,” said Reverend Dr. David Wilson, Director of Rock the Native Vote as he held the official proclamation in his hands.

“So, we've been pushing and promoting helping folks to understand why voting is so important and to get registered to vote, especially in this big election year.”

WATCH: Native Vote With Voto Latino

Part of the leg work for both organizations is dispelling the misconceptions that cause trepidation for people in their communities to register. Chief among these misconceptions is the thought that a single vote won’t make a difference in an election.

“We don't always realize that the decisions made at the city council or in the state government or in the federal government really makes an impact upon our lives and for Native American people, because so much of our lives are through the tribes, it's funded through grants and other means from the federal government. It really does mean a lot to us,” Rev. Wilson said.

For Heidi Briones, Chair of Voto Latino and senior Political Science major at the University of Oklahoma, the responsibility to vote carries extreme personal gravitas. As the only one in her family who is eligible to vote, Briones sees the opportunity to cast a ballot as a duty to not only represent herself, but her loved ones as well. It’s the reason why she helped galvanize her peers to help organize the event at Wheeler Park and why she is so passionate about making sure her community is represented at the polls.

“I definitely think that voting is honestly the smallest step that you can take in becoming active in your community, but I think that this is a right and a privilege that's given to us,” Briones said. “Especially as a Latina woman, it's been fought for a long time for us to have this opportunity to vote and so, the message for me is that if you have the opportunity to do it, you should definitely cast your vote.”


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