When Karvin Vega moved his whole family 3,866 miles from Anchorage, Alaska to Oklahoma City, he knew they would grow roots in their brand-new city. Vega is a member of the Air Force who recently transitioned to work at Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma.
As relatively new residents with no plans to leave any time soon, Vega decided it was time he and his wife, Bonnie registered to vote in Oklahoma and make their voice count in the community they now call home. So they packed up their two kids, Alyssa (10) and Christian (5) and made the trip from their home in Edmond to downtown OKC where they saw on social media that their new home team, the Thunder was hosting a voter registration drive at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
“We wanted to be able to register to vote here in Oklahoma. That way we can vote for our local politicians here instead of doing an absentee ballot in Alaska. We plan on staying here in Oklahoma long term so it was great to just get it done really quickly,” said Vega.
Conveniently, the Thunder’s voter registration drive on Saturday was also the first with the addition of a mobile census station. In addition to registering to vote, requesting and absentee ballot or changing registration information, anyone who came through the doors at Chesapeake Energy Arena could also fill out their census all in one place.
The Vega family took full advantage of the services provided by the Thunder at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Both Vega and his wife became registered Oklahoma voters, then walked roughly ten steps to the census table to make sure their information was up to date after their move.
“That was one thing we just haven’t been able to do,” said Vega. “We’ve had (census takers) stop by our house a couple times but we just haven’t been home. So to have it here is super convenient for us to just do it.”
The Vega family isn’t alone when it comes to putting off the census. According to the Director of the US Census Bureau, Steven Dillingham, Oklahoma is over 92 percent counted and roughly 8 percent of the people remain untallied with a September 30 deadline to complete the census. With less than two weeks remaining until the cut off, Dillingham made a trip to OKC to encourage Oklahomans to get across the “finish line” of 99 percent.
“We remind people how easy it is and we remind them how safe it is, and that helps them to be motivated to report their information,” said Dillingham. “Over time, the data is the most used data in the country. It’s used for so many important purposes and among those are the distribution of government funds.”
According to Dillingham, the allocation of an estimated 650 billion to 1.5 trillion dollars is based off the data from the census. Collected once every decade, the census data also determines the distribution of congressional seats as well as the planning of community services and infrastructure such as roads, schools and medical services. All of which the Vega family of four will benefit from as they build their lives in Oklahoma.
As Karvin and Bonnie Vega bopped around the stations set up in Chesapeake Energy Arena, their 10-year-old daughter, Alyssa watched intently. This was intentional for Karvin. Alyssa, who plays basketball and loves the Thunder, watched on TV as the squad made its playoff run this season. It was then that she saw the messages from the league to register to vote and began peppering her dad with questions about voting and what it was all like.
On Saturday, Karvin wanted to make sure that his inquisitive young daughter observed and understood every step required in making your voice count.
“She was definitely curious on the process to register,” said Karvin Vega. “I’ll make sure come November when we do go vote, she knows how we actually go about it.”