With just over a week until Election Day, the Shanti Project — a volunteer nonprofit organization that helps the well-being of people with terminal, life-threatening or disabling illnesses or conditions — and the City have teamed up to offer personalized ballot pick-up and drop-off services to local voters who need them.

This election year has seen intentionally mislabeled ballot boxes (presented by the California GOP), unsubstantiated remarks from the President stating that voting by mail is rife with fraud, and, among other disappointments, ongoing voter suppression efforts across the country. (Harris County, the largest county in Texas where north of four million people reside, recently closed 11 drop-off locations; a bombshell report from Vice earlier this month showed some 21,000 Election Day polling locations for 2020 had been eliminated since 2016.)

All things considered: voting, especially for marginalized communities and vulnerable people, has become increasingly complicated as of late. However, in the waning days leading up to November 3, San Francisco and a local nonprofit have teamed up to make sure everyone has the means and opportunity to exercise their right to vote.

“Voting is essential to our democracy, and we need to support people in our community who need extra help to safely cast their ballot in this election,” says Mayor Breed in a release for Deliver the Vote, a nonpartisan initiative to help San Francisco residents unable to leave their homes cast their vote in the upcoming election

“Not everyone can easily walk to their nearest polling place or [mailbox], and especially with COVID, it’s more important than ever that we offer this service to our most vulnerable residents,” Breed continues.

At its core, Deliver the Vote ballot is a pick-up and drop-off service now available to any San Franciscan who finds themself unable to visit a polling station or ballot drop-off box on or before Election Day; the service is available upon request to in-need locals.

A volunteer from the Shanti Project will be assigned to visit the requestee’s residence, pick up their ballot, drop it off at the City’s Voting Center or an official drop-off site, and provide information to the voter on how they can track their ballot.

“In this political climate, we must do everything possible to protect and preserve the civil rights of our most marginalized communities,” says Shakirah Simley, a member of the San Francisco Human Rights Commission — the branch of the City helping steer the project.

“Safe and accessible voting options are critical for San Francisco voters of color, many who struggle with disabilities, are homebound or immunocompromised," Simley emphasizes in the release. "I’m thrilled to work with Shanti, [Department of Disability and Aging Services], and our community partners to deliver this essential service, and ensure equity and inclusion in this election cycle.”

Both Shireen McSpadden, executive director of the San Francisco Department of Disability and Aging Services, and the Shanti Project’s Executive Director Kaushik Roy also expressed the importance of the initiative. McSpadden waxed in the release that we must "do everything possible to protect and preserve the civil rights of our most marginalized communities"; Roy noted "nothing is more essential than voting" to help keep a democracy alive and functional.

Deliver the Vote is also seeking out additional help from other local nonprofit agencies to serve homebound San Franciscans cast their vote in the upcoming election. Those organizations can email [email protected] for more information on the project and how they can contribute.

Individuals interested in volunteering for the Shanti Project can visit ww.shanti.org/volunteer to learn more about currently available opportunities and find the appropriate application to fill out.

For any SF resident facing challenges dropping off their ballot, contact the Shanti Project for assistance by texting (415) 449-7190 or calling (415) 674-4701 to request help. More details on the Deliver the Vote initiative can be found at www.shanti.org/volunteer/vote.

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What Are the California November Ballot Initiatives, and How Are They Polling? A Review

Image: A car passenger places a ballot in an official mail-in ballot drop box outside of the L.A. County Registrar’s office ahead of Election Day on October 14, 2020 in Norwalk, California. (Courtesy of Getty Images News via Mario Tama/ Staff)