Countdown to the 2020 Election

Published on : August 26, 2020

The Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) has long supported efforts to help Americans exercise their right to vote in elections. CSWE provides grants for voter registration through efforts such as the Policy Practice in Field Initiative, which was created to seed innovation and develop new models for an integrated approach to enhance the policy skill set of all social work students regardless of specialization. With the 2020 presidential election just 10 weeks away, CSWE supports the Voting Is Social Work campaign and its resources, which can help social workers, students, and educators register as many people as possible to vote in this year’s and future elections.  

Countdown to the Election 
By Mimi Abramovitz, DSW, MSW, and Terry Mizrahi, PhD, MSW 

The next national presidential election will take place in less than 100 days. Given that voting is the hallmark of a democracy, the nonpartisan Voting Is Social Work campaign works to ensure that all social work clients and constituents are registered and vote at the polls or by mail.  

Brought to you by the National Social Work Voter Mobilization Campaign, the Voting Is Social Work campaign refutes the myths that discourage social workers and other professionals from registering voters, while raising awareness about and linking voting to social work practice and social policy. The campaign motivates and prepares social workers, faculty members, students, field work directors, and field instructors to register people and to get out the vote.  
Social workers have always understood the importance of voting to political action, community power, social change, and a viable democracy. We launched the National Social Work Voter Mobilization Campaign in 2016. Since 2018 we have worked with dozens of national social work organizations, schools of social work, and field education departments around the country and registered thousands of voters for midterm elections. We are doing the same for 2020 and beyond. 

Why Social Workers?  
Social workers participate in political activities in higher numbers and vote at higher rates than other professions.  

We do so for many reasons. Social workers have understood the importance of voting as it relates to political action, community power, and social justice dating back the settlement house movement. For individuals, voter engagement advances health, mental health, social connections, and civic participation. For communities, voting influences decision makers. High voter turnout yields attention and resources from legislators. For the profession, turning out the vote elevates the voice and visibility of social workers. More generally, voter engagement strengthens our democratic institutions by breaking the link between the concentration of wealth and the control of political power. 
We do so because we can. An estimated 59 million eligible U.S. citizens, or 25% of Americans, remained unregistered to vote in 2018. The National Association of Social Workers has said that social workers interact with 12 million Americans each day. Between social work field placements and social agencies around the country, we have access to millions of these unregistered potential voters, including those regularly targeted by voter suppression methods and gerrymandering laws.  

Social workers, especially faculty members and administrators at social work programs, sit at the intersection between the individual and society and are positioned to register voters and help to get out the vote. 

Voting Is Social Work sees field placements as the hub of the campaign and has created resources specifically for field directors and students in these placements to register people to vote. 

We do so because it is the right thing to do. The COVID-19 pandemic and the protests against institutional racism have shone a spotlight on major flaws in our election system that undermine safe, accessible, and inclusive elections. Voting overcomes voter suppression. Voting supports social work values and our commitment to racial, social, and economic justice. Voting represents the most basic human right in our democracy. Voting is a source of power. 

Learn More!  
Voting Is Social Work campaign. The website is filled with voter registration information and tool kits for student involvement, school involvement, agency activities, field education, and the Healthy Democracy Voter Registration Tool Kit. The latter enables social workers to register people in person and remotely. When faculty members integrate voter engagement information and assignments into their classes, they help social work students put our principles and ethics into action. 

Your vote is more important today than ever. Be part of history! Join the National Social Work Voter Registration Campaign
Abramovitz and Mizrahi are part of the National Social Work Voter Mobilization Team leadership, which also includes Beth Lewis, Bryn Mawr Graduate School of Social Work; Becki Sander, Silberman School of Social Work, Hunter College, CUNY; Gena McClendon, Voter Access & Engagement Initiative, Brown School, Washington University; Tanya Rhodes Smith, Humphreys Institute for Political Social Work, University of Connecticut