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Temerin Hayward

Tamerin Hayward lectures to her class on the Napoleonic Era during a history class on Sept. 28, 2004, at Case High School. Hayward, now retired from teaching, is the president of the Racine Interfaith Coalition, which has made voter engagement a top priority for 2012./ File photo by SCOTT ANDERSON scott.anderson@journaltimes.com

RACINE — The Racine Interfaith Coalition annually selects a few key issues to focus on, and this year one of the biggest pushes is for voter engagement.

Voter registration, transporting electors to the polls, poll-watching — “We’re very busy,” said Tamerin Hayward, coalition president.

The push began when the coalition’s African American Clergy Caucus raised concerns over the potential for disenfranchisement from the state voter identification law passed last year.

When courts halted that law, their efforts evolved.

Watching the city clerk’s office struggle under the weight of heavy voter turnout during the recall, Hayward said her group saw a need and acted accordingly.

The coalition has recruited poll workers and participated in voter observation training sessions with the state’s League of Women Voters, working through a self-identified non-partisan election integrity group called Wisconsin Election Protection.

“We helped recruit people to be poll workers so the polls would work more efficiently,” Hayward said. Additionally, the group’s poll watchers “will be the neutral observers there.”

About 25 coalition volunteers have been trained as poll watchers so far, Hayward said. Another 25 have been driving voters to the polls during early voting and will offer the free, nonpartisan service on Election Day as well.

Prior to voting, Hayward said the group helped register around 600 voters.

Peace and social-justice oriented, Hayward said the coalition’s interest in the issue is straightforward.

“We just believe in democracy,” she said. “It’s part of the things we think are important to a healthy community. Peace and justice is what we’re all about, and people exercising their right to vote is part of that. It’s a part of making the community better.”

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