Strengthening Democracy: Jennifer Yi-We Hernandez

The innovative creator of an all-volunteer initiative to get stuck-at-home voters' ballots turned in safely and securely is our 2022 Voting Rights Guardian.

Each year, Civic Nebraska’s Strengthening Democracy Awards recognize Nebraskans whose work embodies the spirit of a more modern and robust democracy. Among our 2022 honorees are educators, administrators, students, and everyday Nebraskans. We’ll officially honor the winners on June 9, but before then, here’s a chance to learn a bit more about what makes them special. 
Civic Nebraska honors Jennifer Yi-We Hernandez as its 2022 Voting Rights Guardian for her innovation to ensure accessibility to voting for vulnerable community members.
Jennifer, of Omaha, had already built a reputation as an active, involved community member by 2020. But by the time the pivotal election year came around, so had the COVID-19 pandemic – severely limiting many Nebraskans’ mobility and ability to interact with others. It also created worries of pushing voter participation downward.
Jennifer Yi-We Hernandez – 2022 Voting Rights Guardian
Jennifer recognized this concern – and, especially, the urgent need for those stuck at home to get their completed vote-by-mail ballots turned in properly and on time. So she created Ballot Buddies, a volunteer initiative to assist those voters in getting their signed-and-sealed ballots to the Douglas County Election Commission.
The 2020 general election turned out to be a record-smasher in Douglas County and in Nebraska – nearly 300,000 ballots were cast countywide. Ballot Buddies allowed many nervous voters have their vote counted while staying home and safe. In addition, the volunteers kept the pressure off of the U.S. Postal Service by delivering signed, sealed early mail-in ballots on behalf of voters to official county dropboxes.
Ballot Buddies is still going strong in Douglas County, with Jennifer as its unpaid but passionate leader. She recruits and vets volunteers and promotes the importance of voting, provides nonpartisan education about candidates, promotes election deadlines, and helps others make a plan to vote.
“Jennifer is an exceptional human who, while employed full-time as a data analyst and full-time mom, spends much of her free time leading initiatives that create greater access to resources many of us take for granted,” said Denise Powell, who nominated Jennifer.
“She is a wonderful example of how one person’s ideas and hard work can make the world a more equitable place.”
Join us as we celebrate Jennifer and her fellow Strengthening Democracy honorees on Thursday, June 9, at DelRay 817 in Lincoln. Save your spot today!

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