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Get to Know Jalisa Giles

By Ashlie Alvarez Simms

This article appeared in the July/August 2024 edition of Public Citizen News. Download the full edition here.

As the campaign coordinator for Public Citizen’s Secure Our Vote Coalition, Jalisa Giles is focused on protecting and safeguarding our democratic processes, ensuring every voice is heard and every vote counts. Before joining Public Citizen, Giles began her career in advocacy as a Unite Here Local 355 South Florida union intern in Miami, Fla. She later served as Civic Engagement Director at Florida Conservation Voters, where she registered over 13,000 voters across three counties from April through November 2022. Giles was born and raised in Vicksburg, Miss., and is an alumnus of the University of Mississippi with a bachelor’s degree in political science. At the University of Mississippi, she participated in the William Winter Institute Fellowship, where she deepened her passion for civic engagement and social justice. Growing up in Mississippi, she witnessed firsthand the impact of legislation on communities and the prevalent apathy towards it. These experiences fuel her commitment to public service and bridging the gap in civic education.

One of her recent accomplishments was collaborating closely with Alabama state representative Adline Clarke to pass crucial legislation that enhances protections for election workers ahead of the 2024 elections. This achievement underscores Public Citizen’s commitment to strengthening election integrity and ensuring the fairness of our electoral system. Looking ahead, Giles aims to advocate for policies that safeguard elections and promote civic engagement, fostering a more inclusive democratic process in which every voice matters.

Previously you worked at Florida Conservation Voters, where you served as community and civic engagement director for over five years. What has it been like to shift from advocacy in one state to a nationwide focus?

Giles: It was a huge shift! Transitioning from Florida to D.C. has been transformative, particularly in expanding the scope and scale of advocacy efforts for voter rights. While my tenure at Florida Conservation Voters equipped me with a profound understanding of local dynamics and community engagement strategies, navigating the broader national landscape at Public Citizen has introduced new complexities and opportunities. The pace and intensity of advocacy work at the national level differ significantly from state-level initiatives. Effectively balancing the broader policy implications with grassroots mobilization and coalition building has been pivotal in advancing robust voter protection initiatives. Moreover, this transition has provided me with opportunities to support state organizations through lobbying efforts, securing funding, and providing essential materials. Understanding and navigating diverse state election regulations are crucial in promoting voter rights and ensuring equitable electoral practices across the country.

What does a typical day look like for you?

Giles: A typical day for me involves meeting with my team to strategize around our advocacy campaigns, coordinating with partner organizations like Black Voters Matter and the League of Women Voters, and mobilizing grassroots efforts to support election security legislation. I am grateful for the opportunity to work with interns on a daily basis, helping them understand the critical importance of election security and civic engagement. Additionally, I have the privilege of collaborating with an amazing team, where we spend significant time strategizing about how best to advance our work and achieve our advocacy goals. Each day is dynamic and focused on protecting and promoting democratic processes.

What are some projects that you and your team are working on?  

Giles: Currently, my team at Public Citizen is deeply engaged in several pivotal projects. We’re coordinating nationwide events for the John Lewis Day of Action in collaboration with Black Voters Matter, Transformative Justice Coalition, and the League of Women Voters. Additionally, within the Secure Our Vote Coalition, we are actively opposing the expansion of internet voting while strategizing alternative methods to uphold election integrity. We are also launching a Campus Engagement Campaign program aimed at empowering students worldwide to engage in civic activities on their campuses. Together, we develop and implement campaigns that advocate for transparent and inclusive democratic processes, placing a strong emphasis on policy analysis and coalition building to achieve impactful change.

How is your work shifting as we approach the 2024 election? 

Giles: I’m not sure if we will ever be fully prepared but we’re gearing up for the 2024 presidential election by advocating for election security legislation, expanding coalitions, educating voters, and monitoring threats. Additionally, we’re collaborating with groups and states to ensure they prioritize security and are prepared for worst-case scenarios. Moreover, we’re providing election protection support to states to safeguard the integrity of the electoral process.

What is a common misconception about the electoral process that you would want to change? 

Giles: A common misconception is that individual votes don’t matter. It’s crucial for every citizen to understand that their vote is not only their right but also their voice in shaping the future of their community and country. Every vote contributes to the collective outcome of elections, and each voice deserves to be heard and counted. This understanding is fundamental to promoting active civic engagement and ensuring a robust and inclusive democratic process.