Elsa Collins On Voting and the Way Forward
Elsa Collins knows a better, more equitable world is possible, worth fighting for and is unfazed by the work ahead. As the co-founder of both The Ideateur, a social impact and political consulting group, and This is about Humanity, an advocacy group dedicated to supporting separated and reunited families at the border, she has spent years raising awareness and working on solutions to issues that affect the most vulnerable communities in the states. The activist is also a founding member of two organizations, She Se Puede and I am a voter.®, whose work regarding identity and civic engagement takes on extra meaning with just weeks to go in this election cycle.
We love the I am a voter.® initiative for its message that we collectively, as Americans, need to ensure that we participate fully in our democracy by voting in every election. We sat and spoke with Elsa about organizing your voting plan, the motivating factor behind all of the initiatives she’s engaged with, and the necessary work we owe each other and our communities in the weeks to come and post-election.
No question you are a changemaker—would you tell us a little about how you got started with your activist and advocacy work.
Growing up on both sides of the border (San Diego and Tijuana, Mexico) helped me understand from a young age the different perspectives and truly see how each side of the border affects what happens on the other side. Good air quality and access to clean water do not stop at the border. So, I knew that working to improve the lives on both sides would be elemental to who I am as a person and an activist. Every organization I am engaged with or have started has to accomplish the following: make the world a better place for my children and husband. So the goals and aims and the values of humanity must be present. Whether I am working on a project for racial equality or criminal justice reform, or working to improve the lives of asylum seekers and migrants, or supporting separated and reunited families, or improving access to the voting booth, everything is connected.
There are so many different ways to exercise your right to vote this election cycle, any suggestions on the best way to approach creating your voting plan?
I know, right? Well, I will tell you what I am telling everyone, that the election is not on November 3rd—the election is happening right NOW. The old thinking to vote on Tuesday has been replaced with, vote early if you can. Whether you are looking to mail your ballot in or vote early in person, we want you to see one of these options as your best choice this year.
I am a voter.® has been a favorite resource of ours this election cycle. Tell us a little why you felt it was urgent to build this movement at this moment.
Voting has always been something that I have been passionate about because it is the most patriotic thing one can do: participate in our democracy. But the truth is, it isn’t something that was talked about as something you should do because it is part of your identity. And that is what I am a voter.® set out to do—create an aspirational sense around voting and inspire individuals to want to be a voter. The founding members, along with the co-founders Mandana Dayani, Natalie Tran, and Tiffany Bensley, brought together their networks and resources to spread this message and make this organization permeate all levels of culture, entertainment, and sports.
How can I check whether I am registered to vote?
Reach out to I am a voter.® by texting VOTER to 26797 to register, check your registration, and get election reminders!
What is early voting? Do all states allow you to vote early?
Early voting is when you can cast your ballot before November 3rd. Every state is different—they all make their own decisions about absentee/mail-in voting and early voting. You can visit your Secretary of State’s website or text VOTER to 26797 to see what your options are to vote in your state.
What are the deadlines for mail-in voting?
Each state has its deadline for mail-in voting, but we recommend sending your ballot in as soon as possible, and I would venture to say make sure it goes out by October 24th!
What is the biggest hindrance you see that affects people when deciding whether or not to vote?
I think that sometimes people feel they don’t have enough information to vote, and this proves to be a barrier to participation. But the truth is, you have all you need to know to vote! You know what matters to you and what you care about! I want to encourage everyone and recognize that yes, this year, voting may be much harder than in other years, but it is worth it.
Not only are you an activist, but you are also a mother. Any tips for talking to children about the chaos of this election cycle?
Fill in your ballot with your kids! Look up the propositions together and talk through them. In the past, I would take my kids with me to vote, and while this year is a bit different, I am committed to including them in my civic participation. The other day my daughter was asking me about the Electoral College, and we spent time going through it together so she could understand how it works. I encourage everyone who has kids to include them in their voting plans so that they recognize the importance of the process.
On top of voting, what are some other things we can be doing to support our communities?
This year, my motto is "Vote and...". If you have already voted, have you also reached out to your family and friends to make sure they plan on voting? Have you volunteered to be a poll worker? Have you signed up for phone banking? Have you let other people know your plan to vote? These are all good options to do more.
Three accounts you think everyone should be following on Instagram.
What is next for you and all of the organizations you represent?
Good question! We know that no matter what happens in November, the social justice space and the issues I am involved with around racial equality and immigration will continue to need our attention and support. We will have to work hard every day to protect our vulnerable populations and stand up for equality in this world.