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One of the most compelling questions asked after every election year is "what will it take to get young voters to head to the polls?" Every year is an important year for voters. Which means every year the important question to ask is, how do we ensure the most eligible citizens turn out to vote?Nonprofit VOTE's updated "Engaging New Voters" report tackles that question and proposes a simple but hard-fought answer: "contact." The report looks at 64 nonprofits across six states who reached out into the communities they serve via nonpartisan voter engagement activities and found amazing results:Voters contacted by nonprofits are TWICE as likely to be nonwhite, TWICE as likely to be under 25 and TWICE as likely to have $30,000 in household income. These voters were also MORE likely to vote – 11 percentage points more likely. Asian, Latino and Black voters contacted by nonprofits show up 13-16 percentage points higher than those who weren't; those under 25 turned out 20 percentage points higher.
The new foundation toolkit lifts up concrete ideas and examples for community and public foundations to encourage voter engagement among their grantees and networks. Strategies range from communications, resource sharing, and nonprofit trainings to integration into programs and grantmaking or donor and grantee education.
This guide lifts up concrete ideas and examples for how private foundations can encourage voter engagement among their grantees and networks. Private foundations, like public foundations, may support a range of voter engagement activities as long as it's on a nonpartisan basis. The two important differences are funding voter registration drives or ballot measures and are explained in the nonpartisan section.
As this report shows, the engagement level of citizens varies greatly across the nation. At one end of the spectrum, 70 to 75 percent of citizen eligible voters turned out in states like Minnesota, Maine, and Colorado. At the other end, fewer than 53 percent of eligible voters voted turned out in states like Hawaii, West Virginia, and Texas. Why is there such a dramatic difference in voter turnout across the states? What is taking place in our state laboratories such as Colorado, Oregon and Maine that is helping engage a broader share of their citizenry in elections?
To gain a better understanding of the people the health centers reached, we looked at the demographic composition of two goups. The first group was all CHC voters. This goup includes all of the people contacted by the health centers. The second group was all all registered voters. This goup is comprised of all voters in our seven target states, according to the Catalist database. Findings: The clients and constituents contacted by the health centers were dramatically lower income and more diverse than the general pool of registered voters in the seven states. Those in households earning less than $25,000/year comprised 18% of CHC voters, but only 5% of the general population of all registered voters. African Americans made up about 39% of the CHC voters, but only 13% of all registered voters. Hispanic voters made up 22% of CHC voters compared to only 5% in the seven states. In addition, CHC voters were more likely to be women and were notably younger.
Twenty-five of the 94 Track the Vote program participants were selected for interviews, as well as two additional agencies that participated in similar voter engagement programs managed by Nonprofit VOTE partners.Fifteen of those interviews became the basis for the following case studies, designed to illustrate how a diverse group of nonprofi t organizations conducted voter engagement in 2012. Each case study includes descriptions of voter outreach activities, challenges that arose, and concrete takeaways from their experiences.
The Track the Vote program sought to answer questions about the effectiveness of nonprofit service providers in promoting voter participation within their regular services and programs, and their potential for increasing voter turnout among nonprofit clients and constituents. To do so, the program tracked 33,741 individuals who registered to vote or signed a pledge to vote at 94 nonprofits. The nonprofits included a diverse set of community health centers, family service agencies, multi-service organizations, and community development groups across seven states.Using demographic and voting history data, we were able to determine whom the nonprofits reached and at what rate contacted voters turned out to vote in the 2012 general election, as compared to all registered voters in the seven states involved. The results showed the impact of personal voter outreach by nonprofit service providers in raising turnout rates among those least expected to vote and in closing gaps in voter participation across all demographics.To complement the voter turnout information, we conducted standardized interviews with 27 of the participating nonprofits to learn more about the capacity issues they faced and the tactics they used to engage voters. Fifteen of those interviews were turned into case studies, contained in Part II of this report.