Cars began to create a snaking line through the parking lot of the Northern Nevada Muslim Community Center on Oddie Boulevard today at 9 a.m. They formed a motorcade of cars, many with American flags affixed to their windows. The lead car also bore a logo that read: Muslim Patriotic Voting Motorcade.
Sherif Elfass, the president of the board of the Northern Nevada Muslim Community organized the event.
“It’s a way for us to bring people together. Muslims like to do things in congregation. And we’re encouraging others, young members, to see that united we can do a lot of things,” he said.
NNMC is a religious and social organization whose goal is to enable Muslims in northern Nevada to practice the teachings of their religion and to promote its values and an understanding of them among the broader community. The event was supported by ACTIONN, a local non-profit organization working for racial and economic justice and to promote democracy and community.
During the 2018 midterm elections, Elfass and fellow NNMC members organized an in-person voting event that turned out some 100 people. This year, they had COVID-19 safety precautions to bear in mind and so decided upon the motorcade.
“This was the first one,” Elfass said of the 2018 in-person event. “We showed the community—not only the Muslim community, but the greater community—that Muslims are engaged in the process. We are exercising our rights, and we’re voting.
“We wanted this year to be more, like 200 people, but with COVID, obviously, we couldn’t do it. So that’s why we thought about the motorcade.”
Elfass said it was important to point out that while the NNMC is interested in getting its younger members involved in the political process, there is no intention of influencing how they vote.
“Every person has got their own opinion, and they’re entitled to that,” he said. “Go out and vote. We highlight the issues for we fellow Muslims, but they go out and make up their minds. It’s a new concept, and we’re trying it.”
Elfass’s family showed up for the motorcade, but many people came representing their entire households in an effort to minimize the risk of COVID transmission.
Thanks to changes implemented through Assembly Bill 4—the bill which was passed during Nevada’s second special legislative session of 2020 that introduced some new election procedures in Nevada—the practice of ballot collection (often called derisively “ballot harvesting”) is now allowed for both family members and non-family members in some circumstances.
Elfass talked to the registrar of voters office beforehand to make sure his plans to lead the motorcade to the registrar’s office and then collect and walk all of their ballots into the building in a single box was acceptable.
Among those who showed up for the motorcade was NNMC Board Secretary Md “Ratan” Rahman. This year is his first time getting to vote in a presidential election since becoming a citizen.
“I think this is our responsibility,” Rahman said. “This is the second time I’m voting, and I’m excited to vote because this is the first time for me to vote on the president, to select a president. And every vote counts. That’s what I think.”
Rahman said he’s also working to teach his two children the importance of being politically engaged.
“They’re excited about, like, ‘My dad is voting,’” he said. “While I was filling out the form, they were like, ‘Oh, for whom are you voting?’ Both of the kids are telling different names [for various candidates on the ballot]… It’s a responsibility.
“They are learning that first of all it’s a democratic country—that a real democracy is being practiced in the United States of America. And I think this is the one country, the first country and only one country, that is following democracy 100%.”
One of the main things Rahman said he wants his kids to understand is that when they’re grown their votes will have the power to effect change in the community and the nation.
“My kids are learning that if you’re bad, you’ll not be [in control] forever,” he explained. “If you’re good, you will have to also be continuously doing good; otherwise, you will be out because there is a democratic system that will keep the bad people out.”
Jeri Chadwell came to Reno from rural Nevada in 2004 to study anthropology at the University of Nevada, Reno. In 2012, she returned to the university for a master’s degree in journalism. She is the former associate and news editor of the Reno News & Review and is a recipient of first-place Nevada Press Association awards for investigative and business reporting. Jeri is passionate about Nevada’s history, politics and communities.