This project is part of Democracy Day, a national effort to engage communities in conversations about democracy.
Nonprofits pitch in to bolster American democracy
Bay Area residents, like most Americans, may sometimes feel overwhelmed by the unrelenting stream of troubling news related to politics and democracy today — from the Jan. 6 insurrection to the effort to change state election laws to questions about whether the President of the United States is above the law.
But there are silver linings, and one largely unremarked piece of good news is that scores of nonprofits have joined the battle to keep democracy alive and well.
To explore this work, Bay City News has asked national and local nonprofits for their views on the state of our democracy – what is working, what is not and what we all should be considering as we approach the November midterm elections in a time of great division among Americans and the American electorate.
(Responses were provided in writing and in some cases have been edited for clarity and brevity).
Senior Manager of Communications LToya Knighten
Vote.org uses technology to simplify political engagement, increase voter turnout and strengthen American democracy.
What are some of your organization’s biggest worries right now and why?
As we approach the 2022 midterms and begin strategic planning for get-out-the-vote (GOTV) efforts for the 2024 presidential election cycle, Vote.org is concerned about continued disinformation campaigns and state laws across the country that make it more difficult or confusing to vote. We also know that midterm turnout can be much lower than that of a presidential election. We’re working to ensure all eligible voters are registered and actually getting out to vote this year.
What are you optimistic about and why?
The 2020 election saw the greatest voter turnout in a generation. We’re energized to see youth optimism in the political process, particularly as about 17 million young people have turned or are turning 18 between the 2020 election and the 2022 midterms.
What are your organization’s biggest accomplishments?
In 2020, 39 million individuals used Vote.org’s online tools to register, verify registration, request mail ballots, find their polling location and obtain detailed information on each state’s voter requirements. The organization helped more than 4.2 million voters register to vote and reached voters of color and young voters more than 651 million times through its GOTV program in 2020.
Vote.org provides the technology that underlies hundreds of GOTV and voter registration efforts employed by organizations around the country. With a renewed focus toward reaching young voters in 2022, the organization has announced new, strategic partnerships with organizations such as the NAACP, aimed at mobilizing, registering and turning out Black voters ahead of the 2022 midterm elections; working alongside Athletes Unlimited as the principal voting partner for their Power in my Voice Initiative, for which Vote.org has provided unique registration links to over 250 female professional athletes; and utilizing Vote.org‘s WhatsApp chat bot to reach the 49 percent of the U.S. Latino population that utilizes WhatsApp.
Vote.org can mobilize a large number of voters quickly due to the millions of Americans who rely on its nonpartisan voting information. While the organization is proud to partner with corporate and celebrity influencers to reach voters, it is also a trusted source of information for voters around the country. In the leadup to the 2020 election and in its aftermath, Vote.org made 651 million voter contacts and reached 35.7 million people through its radio GOTV program in 40 states, and reached an additional 1.9 million people through audio streaming platforms.
In addition to its strong partnerships and the thousands of Americans who visit Vote.org daily to plan how they’ll vote, the organization regularly engages with 18.5 million Vote.org supporters through its data-driven, laser-focused digital program.
What are the biggest challenges and what can be done?
The Vote.org technology allows the organization to respond dynamically to changes, disinformation campaigns or state laws that make it more difficult or confusing to vote.
The organization has taken some of these laws head on by filing lawsuits in Texas and Georgia against laws that seek to prevent Americans from exercising their right to vote. Last month, a federal court in Texas blocked the state’s “wet signature” law, House Bill 3107, which disproportionately targeted underrepresented voters, creating a barrier to voting in Texas.