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).

We Vote

Marketing and Communications Manager Ellen Snook

We Vote aims to cut through the clutter and educate citizens by creating open source digital information guides

What are some of your organization’s biggest worries right now and why?

People not realizing how important voting is, or not realizing that their vote makes a difference. Also, obstacles that may prevent some people from voting, resulting in segments of the population being over-represented.

What are you optimistic about and why? 

Voter participation is on the rise overall. Young people seem to care about issues that, with enough political will, we can fix.

What are your organization’s biggest accomplishments?

We Vote now has more than 4,000 users.  We have 100+ volunteers and interns with a lot of diversity.  We have sourced more than 88,000 endorsements from more than 6,400 organizations and 2,100 public figures. We have updated/improved the site so that users can easily sign in with email, phone, Twitter, Facebook or Apple ID; users can add contacts directly from Gmail and invite them to join WeVote.US and message them about upcoming elections; when users click to add a trusted person or organization, their entire ballot is automatically updated.

What are the biggest challenges and what can be done?

Voter apathy is a challenge, but studies show that people are more likely to vote if the people around them vote.  We’re making it easier for people to talk politics and encourage their friends to vote.

Voter confusion is another issue.  People often don’t vote all the way down the ballot because they’re not familiar with the candidates or the initiatives.  We’re making it easier for people to vote their values by showing them which candidates and initiatives are endorsed by the organizations and people they trust.

How healthy is democracy in the Bay Area?

Democracy in the Bay Area and California in general is actually pretty strong compared to other parts of the country.  We don’t face the voter suppression tactics that exist in other states.  And statewide mail-in ballots make it easy for everyone to vote.

What are good and bad signs you are seeing in the Bay Area?

Working with volunteers and interns in high school and college gives us a lot of hope. This young generation is aware of what is happening politically, is engaged, and cares about society.

What can be fixed and how?

We want to bring the positive aspects of social media to help people who care and motivate their friends to make informed decisions and vote.