Thursday, December 27, 2012

Measuring Impact, Learning What Works

This year, Nonprofit VOTE undertook a first-of-its-kind collaboration to assess the capacity of service providers to promote voting and their impact in doing so. Working with seven partners in nine states, we tracked the voter engagement activities of 87 local service providers who each agreed to register or collect voter pledges from 250 or more of their clients. With training from their state partner, local nonprofits tracked the voter contact information of over 40,000 people receiving services--15,110 people registered to vote and another 25,355 clients and staff members filled out pledge to vote cards. Everyone received a follow up mailing and/or call with state-specific voting information. The participating nonprofits represented a diverse pool of organizations, including community action agencies, immigrant serving nonprofits, health centers, affordable housing groups, family and children focused agencies, shelters, and disability programs spread across states like Arizona, Colorado, Michigan, Ohio, and North Carolina.

Early next year, we will review state voter files to find out if the 40,000 people contacted voted in the November election and if, for example, they were first time voters or were already registered but infrequent voters who didn't vote in the 2010 midterm. We're also conducting in-depth interviews with 26 of the participating nonprofits to hear firsthand how they conducted voter engagement, the capacity challenges they faced, and what did and didn’t work. Together, the metrics and case studies will create a more robust roadmap to allow a far greater number of nonprofit service providers to incorporate voter engagement into their work in future election cycles and to do so with greater effectiveness and impact. Stay tuned.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Webinar Series Returns in 2013

For a number of years, we've sought to fill an information void on voting and elections in the nonprofit sector with our webinar series. Webinars are free of charge for 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations. They are recorded and made available on-demand online, along with the PowerPoint presentation and audio file.

Our webinar series will return in early 2013 covering a variety of nonprofit voter engagement topics such as:
  • Candidate Engagement - Forums, Questionnaires, Appearances, and More
  • Staying Nonpartisan - Voter Engagement Guidelines for 501(c)(3)
  • Organizations Nonprofit Voter Registration Voter Turnout in the 2012
  • Election Ballot Measure Advocacy - How to Take a Stand on the Issues 
A full schedule will be available next month. In the meantime, browse our webinar library and visit our YouTube channel.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Partner Spotlight: National Association of Community Health Centers

As the year comes to an end, we want to recognize the work of our many state and national partners, along with the local nonprofits who made an impact on voter turnout by registering and educating their communities.

In 2012, the National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC) had 175 members that conducted voter registration activities. The participating health centers were located in 34 states--from Oklahoma to Massachusetts, South Carolina, and Hawaii--representing both urban and rural locations with mixed demographics. These health centers registered or re-registered over 25,000 voters and collected an additional 10,000 voter pledges.

Although NACHC has managed their Community Health Vote program for a number of years, in 2012 they made great strides in working to develop a reservoir of best practices to help additional health centers determine what strategies might be successful at their specific sites. Health centers engaged in a variety of voter registration, education, and get-out-the-vote activities: a health center in Philadelphia distributed educational materials on voter ID, while centers in Las Vegas and North Carolina provided transportation to the polls during early voting. Some health centers established voter registration and information kiosks in waiting rooms. NACHC also maintained a national number that voters could text to find their polling place which over 1,000 individuals utilized. A provider in South Carolina helped a 108-year-old woman register and vote for the first time.

The National Voter Registration Act requires health centers that enroll patients in WIC and Medicare to ask about voter registration. Thus, many health centers already offer voter registration on an ongoing basis and have used this requirement to consider how to expand voter registration to other points of service. Rather than episodic registration drives, some are considering how to maintain voter engagement efforts year round while expanding the work during general elections.

One barrier is that there is no template for doing this work at health centers because their staffing, foot traffic, services, and populations vary so much. A half dozen health centers participated in case studies to provide ideas and guidance for others moving forward. Like other nonprofits it is often left to the individual organization to determine what will work best for their constituents and community.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Election Day Registration is Popular in Wisconsin

In Wisconsin, one in eight ballots--almost a million votes in all--came from voters who registered on Election Day just before voting in three recent statewide elections--November 2008, November 2010, and the June 2012 gubernatorial recall.

The popularity of the law in Wisconsin has remained relatively steady in general elections since 1984, ranging from a rate of 6.5% of all voters in 2002 to nearly 20% in 2006, when 1,500 small towns were required for the first time to register voters.

Election Day Registration allows voters to correct or update information before casting a ballot, provides a remedy for voters who find themselves omitted from the rolls, and accommodates those who decide to participate at the last minute. States that employ some form of same-day registration tend to have higher turnout rates than those without it.

Nevertheless, there have been several unsuccessful attempts to repeal Election Day Registration in Wisconsin by those who claim that it burdens election clerks and increases the risk of voter fraud. However, many clerks support the law and investigations have found no significant fraud problems. One city clerk said she sets up a separate area for registration so it doesn't slow others who are ready to vote and noted that "We've learned how to work with the current laws and we've got a pretty streamlined process."

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Serving Democracy: Nonprofits Promote Voter Engagement in 2012

With Election Day now behind us, it's critical to acknowledge the role the nonprofit sector played in registering, educating, and engaging voters in 2012.

Nonprofit VOTE's Executive Director, George Pillsbury, authored an article that is featured in the current issue of The Nonprofit Quarterly. "Serving Democracy: Nonprofits Promote Voter Engagement in 2012" profiles the growing role of nonprofit service providers in mobilizing their communities to vote. It describes the rationale for it, the research behind it, and how it has continued expanding this year. It's a call for the entire nonprofit sector to do more now and in the cycles to come.

We've come a long way as a sector, but there's much more to come. Read the full article online or download the PDF. It's not too early to start thinking about what your organization can do in 2013!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

2012 Ballot Measures: Budgets and Public Services

Ballot measures give citizens the opportunity to directly accept or reject laws or amendments. This year, voters in many states cast ballots on proposals related to revenue, spending, and public services.

In California, voters passed both Propositions 30 and 39, which raised income taxes and corporate taxes, respectively, as a means to prevent cuts to education and fund clean energy jobs. Oregon voters also came out in favor of education when they passed Measure 85, which allocates the corporate income and excise tax "kicker" refund to the General Fund to support K through 12 public education. Oregonians also voted down Measure 84, which would have phased out inheritance and estate taxes.

Some measures that would have severely limited states' power to raise revenue were also defeated. Florida voters rejected Amendment 3, which proposed a limit on state revenue based solely on inflation and population. Similarly, Michigan's Proposal 5 would have required a two-thirds majority in the state legislature in order to raise taxes. The proposal failed, partly because many believed it would have caused gridlock in the state legislature, rendering representatives incapable of raising taxes at all. A majority of New Hampshire voters voted in favor of a constitutional amendment that would ban any new taxes on personal income, however, as an amendment it required a two-thirds majority to become law.

Voters in Arizona and South Dakota voted down sales tax increases aimed at supporting public services. Arizona's Proposition 204, which would have renewed a one-cent sales tax to fund education, failed at the polls. Similarly, Measure 15 in South Dakota, which would have established a one percent sales tax increase in order to fund both education and health care, was also defeated. Voters in Oklahoma struck down an annual increase in property taxes by voting against Question 758.

Find out how nonprofits can get involved in ballot measure education and advocacy.

This post was written by Nonprofit VOTE Intern Lauren Dobbs. Lauren graduated from Boston University with a BA in International Relations in 2011 and will be attending graduate school next fall to obtain an MSc in Development Studies.