Monday, December 19, 2011

Welcoming New Partners

We'd like to welcome two of our newest national partners, The National Community Tax Coalition (NCTC) and the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC), to the Nonprofit VOTE network.
The National Community Tax Coalition and its 2,100 member organizations offer free tax preparation and financial services to low-income families. NCTC is the nation's 4th largest provider of tax preparation services, completing an estimated 1.2 million federal tax returns each year. To complement their work in 2012, NCTC and its members will register voters at tax time and provide voter education as part of their ongoing outreach and advocacy efforts.

The National Low Income Housing Coalition works on public policy that assures people with the lowest incomes have affordable and decent homes. They do this by working to preserve existing federally assisted homes and housing resources and expanding the supply of low income housing. In addition to their low income housing education and advocacy work, NLIHC is spearheading a national "Voterization 2012" campaign that educates its affiliates on how to register, educate and mobilize voters, and supplies them with a range of tools, guidance, and support.

The efforts of NCTC and NLIHC illustrate the leadership role our partners have taken in sharing nonprofit voter engagement messages in their communities. This leadership demonstrates the value they place on encouraging participation among their clients, and its impact on the mission of their organization. We're pleased to add the National Community Tax Coalition and the National Low Income Housing Coalition to our growing list of partners.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Texas Maps on Trial

The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear an appeal from Texas Republicans over whether a panel of federal judges acted properly when it replaced the state legislature's congressional map with its own.

The judges' map was the result of a lawsuit that claimed the legislature-drawn map did not give adequate opportunity for minority groups to elect representatives of their choosing, as required by the Voting Rights Act. Texas gained four congressional seats from the 2010 Census--65% of the state's new residents were Latino--yet only one of the four new districts was majority-minority.

Oral argument is set for January 9, and in addition to the implications for voters, a New York Times article highlighted the plight of Texas elections officials who are now stuck in a holding pattern. With less than 90 days before Super Tuesday (March 6), election preparations should be well underway. Instead they are stalled because there are no districts: ballots have not been programmed, proofed or printed, machines have not been tested, voter registration cards haven't been printed or mailed, and poll workers haven't been trained.

However the maps are ultimately drawn, the case has already impacted the election schedule, and has the potential to affect voter turnout and county budgets. Even candidates have been unable to file because their districts simply don't exist. However the Supreme Court rules, the outcome could forever change the way our districts are drawn.

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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Nonprofit VOTE Debuts on YouTube

We're pleased to announce that Nonprofit VOTE is now on YouTube! In an effort to make our materials more accessible, our entire webinar library is now available on our YouTube channel.

Although our 2011 webinar series has concluded, the presentations--as well as webinars from past years--can be viewed on demand at your convenience. Best of all, if you subscribe to the Nonprofit VOTE channel, you'll be notified automatically whenever new content is available.

We hope you'll take advantage of this new way to access our webinar content and will encourage your colleagues to visit our channel to learn more about nonprofit voter engagement.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Holiday Tips from Nonprofit VOTE

With the holidays upon us, only a handful of people are giving the 2012 election much thought, and chances are they have a January primary. Although many people are preoccupied with carols, ice skating, hot cocoa, and vacation, there are still plenty of opportunities to sneak voter registration into the fun (without any extra effort)!

Wondering how? It's simple: just give the gift that keeps on giving--the gift of registration. We have suggestions for wherever the holidays may take you:
  • At your staff party set voter registration forms next to the refreshments. Voting is guaranteed to get everyone in the mood to celebrate!
  • Have plans to go caroling? Take voter registration cards with you and pass them out after the performance.
  • Invited to a party or dropping off cookies for the neighbors? Attach a voter registration card and throw a bow on top.
  • Hosting something at your place with people from different states? Don't worry! Use the national voter registration form and cover all your bases.
If you live in a state that allows online registration, bring along your iPad or Kindle Fire and spread holiday cheer without any paperwork! Don't forget that a voter registration card makes a great stocking stuffer, because really, what's better than being registered to vote? Learn more about voter registration in your state.

Do you have any strategies for talking up voter registration around the holidays?

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Friday, December 9, 2011

Speed Dating for Votes

Last month, candidates in Vancouver's municipal elections campaigned a little differently—they dated voters.

Of course, these were strictly platonic "dates" and were part of a candidate speed dating event organized by Get Your Vote On—a nonpartisan group who encourages youth participation. For many attendees, the format made perfect sense because "you're going to be in a three-year relationship" with whoever is elected.

The quick rounds of face time give voters a chance to ask questions and interact with candidates on a more personal level. The evening had something for everyone, including a formal candidate debate after the speed dating concluded.

Luckily you don't have to go to Canada to date your candidates. Similar speed dating events have been held across the country, in places like Portland, Oregon and Juneau, Alaska. Speed dating seems like an effective and fun way to engage candidates, so why not organize an event in your community? Learn more about candidate engagement and then start dating!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Registering New Citizens on Day One

The picture above was taken on 08/31/11 following a naturalization
ceremony at Boston's TD Garden. See more pictures from the event.
In October, U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) revised its guidelines on voter registration at naturalization ceremonies. Now, for the first time ever, USCIS has committed to providing new citizens the opportunity to register at every administrative naturalization ceremony in the country.

This is incredible news! While many elections officials and nonprofits have worked to bring voter registration to naturalization ceremonies, this is the first unifying directive. Demos has summarized what this means for all involved parties in "Voter Registration for New Americans":
  • New citizens will be encouraged and able to register to vote as soon as they become citizens. This will help close the registration gap between native born and naturalized citizens who are registered at 71.8% and 60.5%, respectively.
  • State and local elections officials will be called upon to increase their activities at ceremonies and dedicate staff time to cover as many events as possible. 
  • Voter registration groups, as long as they are nonpartisan, can provide voter registration assistance at naturalization ceremonies, complementing elections officials' efforts and filling existing gaps.
  • USCIS will undertake responsibility for ensuring that all new citizens receive voter registration forms when neither elections officials nor registration groups can be present and will work to make voter registration part of the naturalization ceremony.
With this new strategy in place, it will be exciting to see how many new citizens are registered at naturalization ceremonies in 2012!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

How Technology is Transforming Elections

As last week's webinar showed, it's never too early to start thinking about the 2012 election. In preparing for next year, many elections officials will utilize a variety of new voting technologies.

Technology will impact voter registration, voter information, the voting experience itself, and administrative practices—like how ballots are counted and monitored.

Finally catching the online wave, elections officials and secretaries of states have flocked to Facebook and Twitter (the EAC cultivates an elections officials and office Twitter list) to better connect with voters and share important deadlines and information. Some local boards are using targeted Facebook ads to reach residents, and hoping that they'll share their enthusiasm for elections with their social network.

Online voter registration is available in a number of states (see if yours is one of them) and has made it easier for would-be voters to register and update their registration. It's also helped organizations streamline their registration efforts by reducing logistical concerns related to returning forms.

The Pew Center on the States is working with 35 states to create new voting tools, including an app to help military and overseas voters fill out their ballot and a multilingual polling place locator.

Because many election components have migrated online, many voters are dreaming of the day that they'll be able to vote online. Most will have to be patient—security and hacking concerns have impeded any substantial progress toward making online voting safe and secure. However, some municipalities have toyed with the idea, and Washington is set to permit its roughly 52,000 voters abroad to do so in 2012.

How has technology impacted your registration or voting experience?

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Friday, December 2, 2011

Webinar Recap: Building a 2012 Plan

Hopefully you were able to join us for yesterday's webinar, Plan Ahead: Building a Voter Engagement Timeline for 2012. If not, you can still watch the presentation and access the materials.

Watch the presentation online or download the PowerPoint and audio file. Several resources and materials were mentioned during the webinar, including:
Check out our website for additional nonpartisan voter engagement resources and visit our YouTube channel to browse other Nonprofit VOTE webinars. Subscribe to our channel and receive a notification every time a new video is posted.

Although we've wrapped our 2011 webinar schedule, we'll be back in 2012 with new topics, expert presenters, and important information for nonprofits. Want to suggest a topic? Leave a comment or email us at!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Recent Trends in Youth Civic Engagement

A new CIRCLE study, "Understanding a Diverse Generation: Youth Civic Engagement in the United States," provides an in-depth analysis of recent youth civic engagement trends. The findings challenge many common myths about the ways in which young people (ages 18-29) are involved in our political system.

The study found that at least three quarters of youth were somehow engaged in their community or in politics in both 2008 and 2010--but in very different ways. Six distinct patterns of engagement emerged in 2010:
  • The Broadly Engaged (21% of youth) fill many different leadership roles.
  • The Political Specialists (18%) are focused on voting and other forms of political activism.
  • The Donors (11%) give money but do little else.
  • The Under-Mobilized (14%) were registered to vote in 2010 but did not actually vote or participate actively.
  • The Talkers (13%) report discussing political issues and are avid communicators online, but do not take action otherwise.
  • The Civically Alienated (23%) hardly engage at all.
See a visual representation of these numbers.

Although this data contradicts the bleak and homogenous picture often painted by the media, it is still clear that many young people are not fully engaged. Other research suggests that some of them could be persuaded to vote if they were directly asked to participate or if voting seemed more accessible--something nonprofits can address. Learn more about nonprofit voter engagement and how your organization can increase participation rates in your community.

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