A Conversation with Nour Alamiri, Fairfax County Elections Officer
Posted by Maya Chamra on July 02, 2019 in Blog
The 2016 presidential election rattled many with attacks on civil liberties, personal freedoms, and the simple right to exist. With safety and protection in jeopardy, the election galvanized the Arab American community to engage in the electoral process by not only by voting, but also partaking in election procedures. Nour Alamiri is one Arab American who was moved by the 2016 election to become an elections officer. I spoke with Nour about her motivation and experience in civil engagement.
Born and raised in Fairfax, Virginia, Nour grew up speaking Arabic with her Iraqi parents. Learning the mother tongue of her family’s homeland was of great importance to Nour, and she regularly attended Sunday school to learn how to read and write in Arabic. She attended the University of Virginia and graduated with bachelor’s degrees in Anthropology and Bioethics. Her undergraduate background informed her work as she pursued a Master of Public Health. Currently, Nour’s work focuses on substance abuse prevention and health education. Her main goal is to make health and wellness accessible to everyone, regardless of background or circumstance.
Nour’s intention to expand accessibility played a role in motivating her to become a poll worker. After the 2016 election, she felt disenfranchised and disempowered as part of an ethnic minority. Aware that the beliefs of the Arab American community were not being heard by the majority, Nour understood it was her civic duty to learn about the electoral process if she wanted to make any change. Her interest in civic engagement led her to become a poll worker.
The process was simple: Nour applied to be a poll worker online and started training immediately. Poll workers are responsible for preparing voting equipment, checking names and IDs of voters, tabulating results, and providing voters with additional assistance. Since Virginia holds statewide elections during odd-years, Nour’s first election as a poll worker was 2017. The experience taught her the procedures of voter registration and the county’s voter outreach program, as well as familiarized her with the population in her precinct and county. About one-third of the county’s population is comprised of immigrants, and half of students speak a language other than English at home. Because Fairfax County is very diverse, Nour recognizes the significance of minority representation in public, visible positions. Just as Nour values accessibility related to health and wellbeing, she prioritizes voters’ access to the ballot no matter their background. The position allows Nour to give back to her community, the same precinct in which she grew up. In 2019, Nour was promoted to chief elections officer, enabling her to further serve her community and carry out her civic duty.
It is easy for anyone to become an elections officer, an entirely voluntary position. According to Nour, elections officers commit only a few days per year to training and election days. While it is helpful to have more flexible schedules, Nour works a full-time job and uses paid time off to work the polls. Serving as a poll worker, however, is only one of countless ways to engage in the electoral process. Canvassing, an activity that requires volunteers to go door-to-door to talk to residents, facilitates human interactions. Although this action is sometimes challenging, Nour believes it is ultimately rewarding to have face-to-face discussions about voter participation and community issues. Another option is to volunteer for a campaign in order to elect candidates who support the same values you hold. And, of course, precincts are always in need of language officers to assist on election day. Nevertheless, Nour emphasizes the importance of volunteering within your community and working on a cause about which you care. As long as you participate in the electoral process, you play an important part in representing your community and asserting your voice.
We thank Nour for her dedication to the electoral process. Because of her hard work, more voters have access to the ballot and can exercise their right to vote. If you are interested in civic engagement, you can learn how to become a poll worker here. You can also volunteer with Election Protection through Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights under the Law.
Maya Chamra is a 2019 Summer Field Intern at the Arab American Institute.