By Paul R. Pace
While every election matters, the November 2022 midterms are imperative because human rights like voting, reproductive health and LGBTQIA+—issues central to social work’s mission and values—are in deep jeopardy.
In some states, these rights are explicitly on the ballot, says Tanya Rhodes Smith, instructor in residence and director of the Nancy A. Humphreys Institute for Political Social Work at the University of Connecticut School of Social Work.
“We find ourselves defending rights we took for granted because the attacks on our democracy have worked,” Smith says. “Most people don’t vote because they don’t think it matters or they have lost confidence in the system. A healthy democracy that works for all people depends on all people voting and participating.”
NASW has been collaborating with national voter mobilization organizations, including Voting is Social Work (votingissocialwork.org), of which Smith is a team member. NASW urges social workers to vote and to help clients learn the importance of casting their ballots.
The NASW Political Action for Candidate Election (PACE) committee reviews and endorses congressional candidates. In addition, the association has funded field organizers to work in the battleground states of Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. Learn more at the NASW Increasing Voter Participation web page
“Social workers help people navigate complex systems every day, and voting should be no exception,” Smith says. “It’s not about who, but sharing how to vote, when to vote, where to vote, where to find information about the candidates, how to get a copy of the ballot, sharing voter rights, and as importantly, reminding people their vote does matter.”
Votingissocialwork.org is meant to be a resource for social workers who want to engage their clients, communities, students, and colleagues to vote, Smith said. Visitors to the site can find easy-to-use tools, research and resources.
“We are calling on all social workers to take the Power of Three Pledge to engage three voters in 2022,” she says.
Technology is making voting easier, especially in states where registering voters is prohibited by punitive policies, Smith points out. People are registering themselves through their devices. They also can receive text reminders to vote in all future elections as well as request an absentee ballot application.
Brian Romero, co-chair of NASW-PACE, said “The upcoming (midterm) election will determine the course of many policy arenas critical to the social work profession and the communities we have committed to serving and advocating for.”
He says the election will impact the national conversation about public health and safety and whether the nation will invest the necessary resources to curb gun violence, boost health and mental health infrastructure and protect abortion access.
“After the most recent IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report, it is estimated that we have 30 months to begin a significant transition to renewable energy if we are going to mitigate the most severe consequences of climate change,” Romero said. “Inflation and a potential recession also burden the economic well-being of clients, and we will either elect candidates who will balance the tax burden on the working class and poor people or continue to provide handouts to the wealthy.”
All 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representative are up for election this year, and 35 of the 100 U.S. Senate seats are up for regular re-election and one special election in Oklahoma.