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Voting Night with Peers at SPNN

Access the full 29 minute video!

10/31/2018 12:09:56 PM



The Minnesota Commission of the Deaf, DeafBlind & Hard of Hearing (MNCDHH) hosted a fun, interactive evening about voter information on Thursday, October 11, 2018 from 5:30-8:00 p.m. Representatives from confirmed organizations presented on why voting is important. There was representation from the diverse racial, ethnic, gender, and generational communities we serve. MNCDHH's Voting Outreach Team and board members participated in a panel to share Voting Info 101. In addition, Alicia Lane-Outlaw from the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) and John Fechter from the Minnesota Association of Deaf Citizens (MADC) explained how they research political candidates. Moderated by MNCDHH Board Chair Jason Valentine. This video is 29 minutes in length. Filmed by the St. Paul Neighborhood Network (SPNN).

This video was filmed live in American Sign Language (ASL) with English voiceover, and closed captioning. A post-production descriptive transcript is also available. 

Descriptive transcript

[Music and opening credits.]

“The Minnesota commission of the Deaf, DeafBlind & Hard of Hearing Presents: A Voter Information Event. October 11 2018, SPNN Studio, Saint Paul, Minnesota.”

[Jessalyn is onstage. She begins to sign.]

>>> Welcome. My name is Jessalyn Akerman-Frank. I am the Community and Civic Engagement Director at the Commission for Deaf, DeafBlind, and hard of Hearing Minnesotans. This is the Network Outreach Group. We want to take this opportunity to thank everybody within the community and all of the organizations that have come together to talk about deaf, deafblind and hard of hearing, our history of voting, and the campaign. The voting outreach team goes throughout Minnesota to talk about voting and their stories. The stories have inspired us to set up the first video of outreach here for all of you. So you feel inspired and motivated to get out and vote. We also want to hear if you have any needs and provide education and resources to give you equal access. This live taping is for you, to empower you with information and knowledge that you need so that you feel that you, your vote matters.

[Jessalyn leaves the stage. Jason comes onstage.]

>>> Hi, and welcome. So happy for everyone who has come. My name is Jason Valentine and I’m the board chair for the Minnesota Commission of Deaf, DeafBlind and Hard of Hearing Minnesotans. Thank you again for coming.  

[Jason leaves the stage. Eric comes onstage.]

>> Hello, I’m Eric Nooker and I’m with the Deaf Queers of Minnesota. As an American, I vote because I feel it is my duty to vote for candidates that believe the same things I do, regardless of ethnicity, sexual orientation, the point is that I vote for equality. I also vote for the betterment of everyone and I vote for people who believe in people. 

[Eric leaves the stage, Migdalia and Darlene come onstage.]

>> Hi, I’m Migdalia Rogers and the representative of Deaf Equity and I vote because many services are missing in our community for the deaf, the deafblind and hard of hearing. We believe it’s important to vote to secure resources and funding to fulfill those missing gaps.

>> And my name is Darlene Zangara. I represent Deaf Equity. I also work as the director for the State of Minnesota, Olmstead Implementation Office. Voting is such an important thing and an important right in America to vote. Voting gives me a voice that is heard. Many people can’t vote, like children, who then depend on you to go out and vote. To make the right decisions on their behalf. So please, do vote.

Migdalia >> Please vote.

[Migdalia and Darlene exit the stage. Kou comes onstage.]

>> Hello, my name is Kou Vang and I am the student body president of Metro Deaf School. I represent MDS today and the younger generation getting out to vote so we can make a difference using our voices and impact the world. I stand with them today, the voice of the youth, to get out and vote, to make a difference.

[Kou exits the stage and Bethany comes onstage.]

>> Hi, I’m Bethany Gehman and I represent Family Tree Clinic. I’m voting because we believe everyone no matter who they are should have the opportunity to reach their highest level of health. Every person in the country deserves accurate information resources about health including sex, sexuality, and resources. We need leaders who actually care about our whole well-being and we need to make our communities healthy and strong.

[Bethany goes offstage, Kathy comes onstage.]

>> Hi, I’m Kathy Manlapas with Deaf Women of Minnesota. The elections are coming up soon and your opinions and concerns are valuable and it’s important to vote. So go and vote. 

[Kathy leaves the stage. Maggie and Kaitlyn come onstage.]

>> Hi, my name is Maggie.

>> Hi, I’m Kaitlyn.

Maggie >> And we’re from ThinkSelf. Minnesota’s Deaf Adult Basic Education and Advocacy.

Kaitlyn >> Voting is important because it’s your opportunity to tell the government what you want for your life, your future, and the future of our community. 

[Maggie and Kaitlyn exit. Jon comes onstage.]

>> Hello, I’m Jon Ainsworth and I represent American Sign Language Interpreting Services and I vote because as a deaf person, I care about the destiny of my home stage and the nation. Voting is my opportunity to effect change.

[Jon leaves the stage and Elise comes onstage.]

>> Hi, I’m Elise Knopf and I work for the State of Minnesota as a state coordinator for deaf services for Vocational Rehabilitation Services. Many years ago, my great grandmother fought for the rights of women to vote and I’m proud of that and take that responsibility seriously. We can choose to vote for those who support our beliefs and wishes, and I have seen the impact of voting on many issues, education, employment, healthcare and equal rights for all. Voting allows you to choose who represents your beliefs and can support funding for the programs you use and everything you need. The government depends on you. Go out and vote.

[Elise goes offstage and Fardowsa comes onstage.]

>> Hello, my name is Fardowsa and I represent the Minnesota Deaf Muslim Community: MDMC. It’s important to vote because I’ve experienced oppression and fear as a deaf Muslim. This is my home in America and you – you shouldn’t go to vote without knowing what you’re voting for. Be aware of all of the diversity and embrace it and make sure that the candidates embrace it too and vote for that candidate. 

[Fardowsa leaves the stage and Terry joins the stage.]

>> Hello, everyone, my name is Terry Wilding, I’m the superintendent for the Minnesota State Academies for the Deaf and for the Blind, in Faribault, Minnesota. I vote because I like candidates and representatives, state and federal legislative government who support my beliefs and needs for the school and the community. And the people that we work with voting is important because we can select candidates who represent the same beliefs and values that we do. If you don’t vote, we may not be satisfied by the person who is elected. It’s important to do your research and learn what the candidate’s stances are. Go out and vote.

[Terry leaves the stage. Sarah comes onstage.]

>> Hi, my name is Sarah Arana, and I’m with the Voting Networking Team. The only way for us to be heard is to vote. So go vote. 

[Sarah goes offstage, Dan comes onstage.]

>> Hello, my name is Dan Millikin and I am the division director for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services Division within the Minnesota Department of Human Services. I vote because I want to exercise my vote to vote as a Minnesotan, a parent, a husband, and an individual, a community member and a professional. As a director, I oversee the division that provides statewide programs and services for people who are deaf, hard of hearing, deafblind, and late-deafened who have some level of hearing loss in Minnesota. We depend on the Minnesota Legislature biennial budget allocations to insure that we continue to provide the high quality services statewide. It takes a group of votes to make a difference on any important issue including programs like Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services Division. It all starts with one vote and that’s why I vote.

[Dan leaves the stage, Kim comes onstage.]

>> Hello, I’m Kim Wassenaar, president of St. Paul/Minneapolis Black Deaf Advocates. You need to go and vote if you cherish your community especially with the hearing black community as well. We have rights that we need to go out and vote and come together and we’ll make a difference in our lives throughout our community. So thank you and go out and vote, please! Don’t stay home and drink coffee, get out and vote!

[Kim leaves the stage, Alicia comes onstage.]

>> Hi, I’m Alicia Lane-Outlaw, a board member for the National Association for the Deaf. You need to vote to make sure our state and our country doesn’t forget about me and my community. Thank you.  

[Alicia exits and John comes onstage.]

>> Hello, I’m John Fechter, board president for Minnesota Association of Deaf Citizens. And I vote because of the deaf community. There are several issues where we are fighting for our rights. For example, communication access.

[John leaves the stage and Xavier comes onstage.]

>> Hello, I’m Xavier Arana and I’m here to represent MN Commission for the Deaf, DeafBlind and Hard of Hearing. Your votes are very important. Please, go out and vote. 

[Xavier leaves the stage and Shawn appears.]

>> Hello, I’m Shawn Vriezen, I’m the vice president of the Minnesota Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf. Voting is important. Growing up here in Minnesota, I cherish the state and look forward to future generations of deaf individuals enjoying it as much as I do. This is a wonderful state and we need to continue that legacy. 

[Shawn leaves. Jason (moderator) is onstage now and there is a panel of seated individuals behind him. They are Sarah Arana, Fardowsa Ali, Kim Wassenaar, Shawn Vriezen, and Xavier Arana.]

Jason >> Thank you for your involvement in this important conversation about voting. We know voting is very important and we know that some folks may feel overwhelmed or confused about the process. So now, we are here with this panel, the voting outreach team and they’re going to answer some of my questions. And we also have a board member on the Commission as well. Thank you so much for coming. Let’s start with our questions. My first question is, when are the elections? 

Shawn >> The Election happens on November 6th. That’s a Tuesday. You can show up and vote in person that day. But that’s not the only time you can vote. You can vote before that. If you go into your county office, you can vote then. And there are other opportunities as well. You can request a ballot be sent to your home that you can fill out and send back. You can send it through regular mail, through FedEx or UPS.

Jason >> There’s many options to vote. Good to know. So if I work that day, am I allowed to take time off to go and vote?

Fardowsa >> Yes, you are. You have that right. You can leave work and go to your polling place and get back to work. They cannot deduct your pay, your vacation or your personal leave. 

Jason >> Good to know. That’s very accessible that way. So if I’m not sure or if I don’t remember if I’ve registered or not, how do I know if I’m actually ready to vote? 

Kim >> You can go online to Then you go to the tab for Elections. And voting. And that tab, you’re able to put in your Zip code and that will show the address you can verify and that’s how you can register. If you’re not registered, there’s a form online you can fill out or you can mail in.

Jason >> Oh, thank you for explaining all of that. Now I know that I’ve registered, but where do I go? How do I know where I go to actually vote? Where is that information posted?

Sarah >> Sure, you go to, click on the tab, Elections and Voting, you’ll see a tab that says Election Day Voting and type in your address and you’ll find your voting poll. It will tell you exactly where to go.

Jason >> Good to know. So I know there’s a lot of people on the ballot, is it possible for me to review that ahead of time and I know whose information is on there?

Sarah >> Yes, you can. You do have the ability to look at it ahead of time on that same website, they have a tab that says Election and Voting and you will see a tab that says What’s on my Ballot. You will see a box that says Sample Voting Ballot. There will be a list of names of candidates and it will give examples on who you can vote for and give you time to research and study.  

Jason >> So if I need assistance or help if I’m deaf or deafblind and need assistance at the voting poll, is that possible to get that assistance?

Shawn >> Yes, suppose you need support, the most common type is for deafblind individuals. They’re allowed to have Support Service Providers join them at their polling place for help. Another option is that you can have a friend join you. However, if a friend is joining you or not able to join you, you may also request to have a voting judge, an election judge, come and help you vote. The support they provide you is that they can tell you who is on the ballot and what issue is being voted on. Another option is that if you need help filling out the ballot, you can tell them who you plan to vote for and they can fill it out. The one thing they can’t do is coerce or advise you on who to vote for.

Jason >> Good to know, thank you for that information. I’m happy to know there’s support there if needed. What other resources should I be looking for? 

Xavier >> Yes, there are additional resources available. If you go to the Commission’s website,, on our website we have several videos we have produced. You can click on them to review. They are closed captioned and they’re produced in American Sign Language and there’s also spoken English interpretation. That’s a wonderful resource, I suggest you check it out. 

Jason >> Can you tell me the website again? 

Xavier >>

Jason >> Well, thank you for your time and I’m so glad that you guys have come today. 

Panelists >> Thank you, thank you.

[The panelists leave the stage and 2 new panelists appear. They are Alicia and John. Jason continues to be the moderator.]

Jason >> I’m honored to introduce these two – we have the president of the Minnesota Association of Deaf Citizens, John Fechter. 

John >> Hi.

Jason >> And next to him, we have a board member from the National Association of the Deaf, Alicia Lane-Outlaw. 

Alicia >> Hi.

Jason >> So, I have questions for these two. Let’s get started. Would you mind explaining where I could search for information about political candidates? There’s a lot out there, but how do I sort through that information? 

>> Certainly, that’s a good question and it’s challenging to find this information. One thing I would suggest is what my first step is, I typically go to the Google search engine and type up a key word. For example, who is running for office in Minnesota. You can start there and that will pull up a variety of search results. I would suggest the top two as the most accurate information. For example, those two could be and another would be Once you click on those, you’ll have information regarding categories of candidates. So, if they are running for attorney general, governor, secretary of state, or congress and senate. Once you click on one of those different links posted there, for example, governor, you can see who is running, if they are a Republican, Democrat, or Independent. You will also see their websites or links to their specific websites. You can get information about their background and what issues they support or not.

Alicia >> For me, I will typically first figure out who my candidate is. So it depends where I live. Typically I’ll google “sample ballot Minnesota” and that first hit usually gets me to the Secretary of State’s website. From there, I can go in and put my address and it will show me the national and state, county, and city level candidates. If I need more, I’ll look at the list and if there’s a candidate that has his own website, there’s a link there – that’s very nice. Also, if I look at my candidate and don’t know them well, and I want to know more about them, before I make a decision, I’ll usually take their name and put it in Google News. Google News has the most recent information or articles about that particular candidate. Pro and Con. If I’m still feeling like I need more information, I’ll typically go to their website or the Facebook page or other social media to look at the candidate and what they’re saying. Sometimes I’ll chat with friends. My friends on Facebook, I’ll read what they’re posting about candidates. I know several friends who are savvier on political issues and share my beliefs. If I really struggle, sometimes I can ask their opinion. Typically, I learn best through reading about the candidates, but everyone has their own feel. Sometimes I’ll go, in the past, but not often, I’ve gone to debates to learn more about that candidate.

Jason >> Great options on how to research these candidates more. Great ideas. Thank you. There’s many issues out there, how do we know we can find a political candidate that supports the issues that we support? 

John >> As we both mentioned, you can access the specific candidate’s campaign website. For example, for governor, you can see everybody running will have their own website, their stance or their issues and what they believe, and for example issues related to gun control or education, healthcare, immigration, employment. You can go on to the candidate’s website. However, understand most of the things you see there, the issues highlighted are ones that impact most Minnesotans. If you’re looking for things more related to deaf, deafblind and hard of hearing, specifically discrimination and how to combat that, you may have to contact that specific candidate’s office and ask questions or go to debates and ask a question live and in person. There are several options.  

Alicia >> Before I look at the candidates, and their issues, I feel like I have to understand the candidate and what they’re running for and at a national level, state level, maybe local or county or city. Also, what kind of position they’re running for. Is it administrative, like president, vice president, governor, mayor? Or perhaps legislative or judicial. I’ll research that to get a better understanding. For example, recently I was a delegate for a county convention. I went to the conference and the hot issue was actually the commissioner. County commissioner. Now, at that time, I wasn’t really sure what a county commissioner does. So I did my research and realized, year, at the county level they are strongly involved with Child Protective Services – or CPS. CPS within the deaf community, working with deaf children and deaf parents, has become a big issue nationwide. And the National Association of the Deaf posts articles and white papers about that issue, so once I knew that, I could go to an event or debate at the county – for the county commissioner, write my question about CPS to the coordinator, and all of the candidates will answer that question and I can compare their responses. That was a great experience. So that’s an example of my experience. Now, once I understand what the role is, and their view on different issues, I can go to a broader search, if they’re within different parties like Republican, Democrat, Independent… And then all of the parties, they do have a platform. These are issues they support. I can often go on the national level or state level and sometimes they have different views from each other and I can look at their platform and that helps me understand the candidates and whether I’m for or against their issues. For example, I might have to dig more by going to the candidate’s website and Googling a particular issue and seeing what they’re saying about it. If there’s nothing there, I may talk to friends. And at the national organizations and state organizations that have particular issues that they’re addressing, oftentimes those organizations will send out questions or issues that they know candidates support and I can read about them there. If there’s still nothing, oftentimes I’ll just reach out directly to the campaign office and ask them their views on my particular issue. Or I’ll go to an event where I can actually meet and ask questions directly.  

Jason >> That really helps give me a visual image of what this looks like. It’s a lot of issues. So now, speaking as a deaf person and within the deaf, deafblind and hard of hearing community, how do I know a candidate really, truly understand the law and things important to our community? How do I find out that information? 

John >> Well, as I mentioned previously, with specific issues, I can’t always be sure if they’re also going to address my needs so I have to dig deeper on that. I’ll contact the campaign office and ask if they support that or not. Plus, I can also, with accessibility and accommodations, I can ask if they’ll provide sign language interpreters or CART services. Sometimes they may say no – it’s important then to ask why, to get the reasons behind their response, which helps to plan for the next step. For example, you could contact, and go on to their website. They have several links, and you would go into Voting and Voters. There are ways on the website to file a grievance. And I would emphasize though, that can be a lengthy process. So another option would be to contact the Commission and they can also provide help and resources with information on how to get your accommodations. They also may be able to match that financially so you can get your accommodations. 

Jason >> That really is an important part. If I want to go to an event, I want to make sure there’s accommodations there. Thank you for answering that. If we need interpreting or CART captioning, we need to ask, and if they say no, there are other options. That’s good to know. Thank you for answering my questions. Thank you both for your time. Thank you for coming, what a wonderful discussion. I want to thank everyone who has been involved. It’s been a very inspiring and important event for voting. So thank you so much for you time, and… please get out and vote!

[Rolling credits]

Special thanks to:

Jessalyn Akerman-Frank /MN Commission of the Deaf, DeafBlind & Hard of Hearing

Jon Ainsworth / American Sign Language Interpreting Services

Fardowsa Ali / Minnesota Deaf Muslim Community

Sarah Arana / Voters Outreach

Xavier Arana / MN Commission of the Deaf, DeafBlind & Hard of Hearing

Maggie Bangert / ThinkSelf

John Fechter / MN Association of Deaf Citizens

Bethany Gehman / Family Tree Clinic

Elise Knopf /MN Department of Employment and Economic Development

Alicia Lane-Outlaw / National Association of the Deaf

Kathy Manlapas / Deaf Women of Minnesota

Kaitlyn Mielke / ThinkSelf

Daniel Millikin / MN Department of Human Services – Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services

Eric Nooker / Deaf Queers of Minnesota

Migdalia Rogers / Deaf Equity

Jason Valentine, Chair / MN Commission of the Deaf, DeafBlind & Hard of Hearing

Kou Vang, Student Body President / Metro Deaf School

Shawn Vriezen / MN Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf

Kim Wassenaar / Black Deaf Advocates

Terry Wilding, Superintendent / Minnesota State Academies



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