This Tuesday, volunteers, civic groups, and nonprofit organizations across Colorado and the United States will "hit the streets" for National Voter Registration Day. National Voter Registration Day is a nonpartisan event.
According to the website of National Voter Registration Day (NVRD), “In 2008, 6 million Americans didn't vote because they missed a registration deadline or didn't know how to register.”
Because, yes, there are elections in 2013, this single day of coordinated ﬁeld, technology and media efforts will create pervasive awareness of voter registration opportunities--allowing advocates for civic engagement, such as celebrity and actress Rosario Dawson, to reach tens of thousands of voters or more who could not be reached otherwise.
What NVRD Means
• Nonprofit staff and volunteers will run on-site registration drives, educating their clients and communities on the importance of voting.
• The Colorado Participation Project (CPP) will provide resources and tools to nonprofits, including trainings, materials, and publicity. Founded in May 2010, the mission of the CPP is to guide, train, and support human service nonprofits in their nonpartisan advocacy and civic engagement efforts.
What are the goals of NVRD?
• To register voters: A network of nonprofit organizations across Colorado will register nonprofit clients, staff, and community members.
• To mobilize volunteers: By engaging a network of volunteers not usually engaged in voter registration drives, NVRD will bring additional volunteer voter registrars into the ﬁeld just when we need them most.
• To change the conversation: NVRD is an opportunity to celebrate the rights that unite us as Americans. The nonprofit sector endorses participation in community after all.
• To highlight the work of nonprofits in our state: Joining this effort will allow nonprofit organizations to promote their programs and commitment to their clients.
• To build the nonprofit sector’s capacity for advocacy and civic engagement. NVRD also offers an opening for nonprofits new to advocacy and voter engagement to “plug in” to a high-profile national community event, thereby expanding their capacity for future policy, advocacy, and civic engagement work.
Who can get involved?
According to the NVRD website, “Anyone!”
“Businesses are donating goods and space at their stores for volunteers to offer voter registration to their customers, service organizations are committing to this one day action to register their communities, high schools are making registration available to their eligible seniors, church groups and community service organizations are hitting the streets to register new communities, individuals are volunteering with events, and organizations that normally do voter registration are helping train and guide people who are unfamiliar with it.”
Nonprofits can either have their location(s) be a voter registration site and/or engage their volunteers to do voter registration on Sept. 24.
Says Rebecca Gorrell, Program Director of CPP,
“The Colorado Participation Project is thrilled to celebrate the 2nd Annual National Voter Registration Day and support our nonprofit community through this nonpartisan event. NVRD offers an opportunity to put aside our differences and celebrate the rights that unite us as Americans. A recent Nonprofit VOTE study found that ‘Nonprofits were particularly effective at increasing voter turnout among traditionally underrepresented groups and closing participation gaps.’ Nonprofits have a very special role to play in getting out the vote.”
In 2012, the Colorado Participation Project provided training and support to 31 nonprofit service agencies, including Denver Urban Ministries, pictured here, and Project WISE, for the inaugural National Voter Registration Day. More than 60 staff members and volunteers engaged over 500 community members in nonpartisan voter registration efforts. Volunteers and staff were mobilized around the fall elections and increased the nonprofit sector’s capacity for civic engagement efforts.
Can nonprofits impact voter turnout?
According to Nonprofit VOTE, in 2012 this national nonpartisan organization “enlisted 94 nonprofits to help us find out by tracking their voter contacts with 33,741 individuals in seven states. After an independent analysis of the data conducted by CIRCLE, the youth civic engagement institute at Tufts University, the answer was yes,” nonprofit organizations can increase voting among their clients, constituents and staff.
Further, Nonprofit VOTE continues, “The clients and constituents engaged by nonprofits were markedly more diverse, lower income, and younger than all registered voters in the seven states, made up of populations with a history of lower voter turnout in past elections.”
Who votes at higher rates anyway: women or men?
According to the Center for American Women and Politics Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers University in 2011,
“In recent elections, voter turnout rates for women have equaled or exceeded voter turnout rates for men. Women, who constitute more than half of the population, have cast between four and seven million more votes than men in recent elections.”
The Center continues to explain that the rate of voter turnout in 2004 was 60.1% for women, compared with 56.3% for men, which was greater than in any previous election. Women outvoted men in every racial and ethnic group, including Caucasian, African-American, Latino and Asian/Pacific Islander-American.
Young women and voting
In the 2008 election, the rate of voter turnout for women ages 20 – 24 was 49.5%, compared to 42.5% for men in the same age bracket, according to the Center in 2009. The voter turnout rate was even higher for women ages 25 – 29 at 51.8%, compared to men in the same age bracket that election year (42.6%).
Women with low incomes and voting
Women are disproportionately represented among people with low incomes in our country.
“In 2011, more than one in five women was poor in Mississippi (22.3 percent) and Louisiana (20.6 percent). Only one state, New Hampshire, had a poverty rate of less than ten percent for women, at 8.9 percent. In the other 47 states and the District of Columbia, between 10 and 20 percent of women lived below the poverty line.”
Why is this important as it relates to National Voter Registration Day? In the 2008 election, there was a troubling voter turnout gap; 59% of eligible voters with incomes under $50,000 cast a ballot, vs. 76% of eligible voters earning more. Bottom line: Research shows voter turnout generally increases with individual income.
Therefore, it may come as little surprise that there are organizations all across this country striving to address this voter turnout gap among Americans with low incomes. One example is the Women’s Leadership Program of Colorado human service nonprofit Project WISE. This program teaches advocacy, develops leadership skills and encourages women to become involved in their communities by participating in community forums and the policy-making arena promoting positive systems change. It provides opportunities to give voice to their experiences, understanding that personal troubles are often rooted in economic policy issues. Participants come together to collectively express their concerns and are educated on policy issues affecting their lives.
Project WISE participants convene for bi-monthly training and information sessions. Programs are based on Self-in Relation Theory emphasizing health, growth and courage. There is a focus on strength in relationship, not in isolation. Isolation is seen as the source of suffering, while mutual empathy and empowerment is seen as the route out of isolation. Opportunities such as volunteering to help people to register to vote help women find their voice in their community and become more empowered in their lives. In 2012, Project WISE assisted 100 women with its leadership development programming. Of these, approximately 40% were Latina and nearly all were women of color.
To learn more about how you or a nonprofit/community organization with which you already volunteer in your neighborhood can help this important effort getting Coloradans registered to vote, visit the events page of the website of the Colorado Participation Project. As for each and every one of us, let’s exercise our privilege and not only go to your polling place this November, but encourage your friends, family and neighbors to as well, so we use our voice and Get Out The Vote.