Portuguese Speakers Hold Mass. Voter Drive

CORRECTION APPENDED

The Massachusetts Alliance of Portuguese Speakers held a voter registration drive Saturday afternoon at three of their offices as part of ServiceNation’s national Day of Action.

Voter registration forms were available in English, Spanish, and Portuguese, and bilingual MAPS staff members and volunteers were available to assist Portuguese speakers with the registration process. The drives were held at MAPS offices in Cambridge, Dorchester, and Lowell.

Two Harvard Kennedy School students volunteered at the drive’s Cambridge location as part of the Kennedy School’s day of service.

“I think it’s important for kids, especially in the Kennedy School, to try and get out and engage in community work at a very basic level,” said Jayant Kairam, one of the Kennedy School student volunteers.

One of the four Cambridge election commissioners, Darleen Bonislawski, also helped register voters in Cambridge.

“Going out to the community is one of the more fun things we get to do,” Bonislawski said.

Most of the people registering at the Cambridge MAPS office were English speakers who streamed in from the street after spotting the signs and red, white, and blue balloons outside the MAPS office.

Local families stopped in to pick up voter registration forms and helped themselves to cookies and juice provided by MAPS.

“Anyone is welcome to come in,” said Lois Josimovich, MAPS’ director of development. “We’re happy to help anyone who wants to register and vote. It’s a very important election and we want as many people as possible to be part of that decision.”

Later Saturday afternoon, as the rain picked up, the Cambridge office emptied out.

“It would have been nicer to have a little bit more action,” Kairam said.

Josimovich said that MAPS has never before held a voter registration drive, adding that the organization was inspired to do so this year by ServiceNation, a national campaign promoting citizen service and supported by a coalition of organizations. [SEE CORRECTION BELOW]

“We feel like change can happen once you get citizens engaged in the process,” said Emily Cherniack, the director of organizing for Be the Change, Inc., one of the groups supporting ServiceNation.

“This is one of the first steps in terms of organizing and demonstrating the impact of service and what happens if people get involved.”

The MAPS drive was just one of 2,700 community service events held across the country Saturday as part of ServiceNation’s first Day of Action, Cherniack said.

Since 1970, MAPS has been offering health and social services to Portuguese speakers in Massachusetts, ranging from immigrant social services and educational programs to health services and HIV and domestic violence prevention programs.

“We do want to raise awareness about MAPS so people know we’re here to help them on a variety of issues,” Josimovich said.

CORRECTION

The Sept. 29 story, "Portuguese Speakers Hold Mass. Vote Drive," incorrectly reported that the organization in question was holding its voter drive for the first time. In fact, the organization has held voter drives in the past.