Social Workers Can Make a Difference in Upcoming General Election

By Paul R. Pace

Hillary Scholten and Anthony Estreet

The general election this year is going to be historic, says Mel Wilson, NASW senior policy adviser at NASW.

“There are many people deeply concerned,” he says. “We need to be willing to raise our voices if there are any inequities, especially in the voting process.”

Voter suppression is real, Wilson explains. “The protections we have around voting are becoming fragile. There are going to be attempts to suppress the vote, and intimidate voters, even using Artificial Intelligence, such as robocalls, that are spreading misinformation. It’s already happening, and we can be assured it’s going to happen.” Photo on left: NASW welcomed U.S. Rep. Hillary Scholten, D-Mich., left , to its headquarters in Washington, D.C., for a meet-and-greet with the Patient Access to Responsible Care Alliance Coalition. NASW CEO Anthony Estreet is pictured at right.

To help counter these efforts, NASW supports the reintroduction of the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act (VRAA) of 2024 (S. 4). It is named in honor of the late congressman and civil rights icon John Robert Lewis. The bill aims to strengthen legal protections against discriminatory voting policies and practices, particularly by revitalizing and modernizing the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Wilson noted in an NASW blog post that the bill is especially important at a time when voting rights are under attack with an ever-growing intensity and ferocity.

“For democracy to work for all of us, it must include us all, no matter our race, ethnicity, language, or ability,” Wilson said. “We are heartened that the VRAA will restore and strengthen the Voting Rights Act. The bill will repair damage done by the U.S. Supreme Court and modernize the most successful civil rights law in history.”

For those reasons, the voting rights community, including NASW, must remain vigilant, organized, mobilized and active in fighting for voter protection, Wilson said. “It is going to be a situation where people are going to try to game the system, where there are attempts to win the election through pressure on poor people and minorities, and taking away their rights to vote."

What can social workers do to help? “Social workers need to be part of a coalition, a part of movements at the state and/or national levels where there are groups, collaborations, where, as a mass, you can change and avert some of the concerns about the 2024 election,” Wilson suggested. “It’s about what we all can do.”



In addition to supporting bills that protect voting rights, NASW has a political action arm called the Political Action for Candidate Election (PACE). As a political action committee, PACE endorses and can financially contribute to candidates from any party who support NASW’s policy agenda.

PACE builds political power for social workers through field organizers mobilizing NASW members to vote; through contributions to candidates who agree with NASW policy positions; and through political training for members.

The national PACE board of trustees endorses federal candidates running for U.S. House and Senate seats. Chapter PACE committees decide on local and state races.

“NASW PACE gives the association the opportunity to connect with legislators and candidates in a way we don’t have an opportunity (to do) otherwise,” said Dina Kastner, public policy and advocacy manager at NASW.

“Because of PACE, we are able to get meetings with candidates for office,” Kastner said. “For example, we held a fundraising lunch with U.S. Rep. Hillary Scholton, D-Mich., in our boardroom. She talked a lot about how important social work is. She also talked about how much she has learned as a social worker that has helped her as a member of Congress.”

Kastner added, “In order to move policy in D.C., it’s helpful to have relationships with lawmakers, and we can help facilitate that through PACE.”

It is essential that social workers be involved in the voting process, Kastner said. “It’s critical for social workers, as it impacts their reimbursement for services rates, the services they provide to their clients, as well as having a voice in terms of any number of economic and social justice issues,” she said. “The more social workers can have a voice on these issues and the clients they serve, the better (the) policies (that) can be created.”

Resources to Help Get Out the Vote

two people voting in booths

NASW PACE and listings of federal endorsements

NASW’s voter participation page

Voting is Social Work

Social Work Advocates National Association of Social Workers Spring 2024 Cover

Social Work Advocates Flipbook

NASW members, sign in to read the Spring 2024 issue as a flipbook