Bolder Advocacy

Boosting Young, Immigrant, and Latino Turnout in November

In last month’s election, a larger number of lower-income, younger, and diverse voters turned out to vote than ever before. While some of this can be attributed to population increases, a new report from Nonprofit Vote finds it was also aided by “unprecedented voter education and engagement efforts from the nonprofit and civic sector.”

These findings come as no surprise to us. At AFJ’s Bolder Advocacy initiative, we fielded large numbers of technical assistance calls from nonprofits focusing their work in these exact communities. The demand for our help always increases during an election cycle, but this year we received a much higher than average number of requests.

Voter outreach part of ongoing civic engagement work 

An image from the Florida New Majority Education Fund GOTV campaign.

The nonprofits we work with use voter engagement as a tool to help marginalized communities build their power and ensure their communities are a force that policy-makers must recognize. While low-income, immigrant, and youth populations are the communities most affected by the laws adopted in state capitols across the country, political parties and candidates often ignore these communities in their “get out the vote” strategies because they are not consistent voters. And that is where the nonprofits come in.

This year we worked with a number of groups that were targeting young, minority, and immigrant voter populations. In our discussions with nonprofits about their strategies, we know that a big piece of the reason they target these groups because they are largely overlooked by the political parties and candidates.

Highlighting groups from around the country

One group that has done a great job working in this space is an alliance of nonprofits in California called California Calls. They contacted more than 500,000 new and occasional voters who speak dozens of different languages and had a great success rate of turning these voters into more consistent voters.

CASA de Maryland pursued an innovative strategy to mobilize voters around both marriage equality and the DREAM Act, state ballot measures. They built an amazing coalition where supporters of marriage equality were campaigning simultaneously for passage of the DREAM act and vice versa. They launched a campaign called Familia es Familia campaign — to promote Latino support for LGBT issues because they felt both same-sex marriage and the Dream Act are “about fairness and about equity.” Even though the initial reaction is often to say that religion may divide immigrant populations on issues like marriage equality, when you are a nonprofit that works on immigration issues, you are often the best positioned to be able to tell a story about marriage equality in a way that may have a greater influence with the voter.

Lastly, the Florida New Majority Education Fund was enterprising in their strategy for reaching out to these populations in Florida. Florida New Majority is a part of the State Voices network and they made sure they were a visible presence in communities of color and immigrant communities in Florida.

We had the pleasure of working with all of these groups — and hundreds more — this election cycle. The turnout of young, Latino, and immigrant voters show both the importance of a vibrant nonprofit sector deeply involved in advocacy and the return on investment for foundations when they fund this kind of advocacy.