This is the most expensive election in history, and the vast majority of that spending is on communications. Endless television ads, overflowing mailboxes and phone calls from robots are all results of efforts to influence your vote. But even with all this noise, many of us have a hard time figuring out how to vote, where to go when, and who and what to choose.
People are hungry for information they can trust, and people trust nonprofits. But nonprofits are often very leery of getting involved in election related work because of restrictions on their tax-exempt status. This is particularly frustrating in a post “Citizens United” world where the Supreme Court has removed almost every restriction from corporations and rich citizens, allowing them to spend unlimited, often anonymous, money influencing our elections.
Election results have too much impact on our communities to ignore. And the good news is that there is so much nonprofits can do to inform our communities. And it makes a difference. A recent study from the Nonprofit and Volunteer Sector Quarterly found that for each outreach from a nonprofit, voter turnout increased by 11.1 percent.
Nonprofits most often participate in elections via two approaches: helping engage potential voters in the process through registration and get out the vote efforts, and/or by helping voters navigate the issues in a nonpartisan way. Following are some examples of how several LightBox Collaborative clients and allies are helping their communities navigate the numerous and often-confusing options for candidates and ballot measures.
Two incredible organizations we have had the pleasure to work with have taken the time to evaluate the options and put out voter guides for their constituents:
- Chinese for Affirmative Action has a San Francisco ballot guide designed to help their members and allies make decisions on the issues that will most effect immigrants and low income families:
- The Ella Baker Center for Human Rights has also created a shareable voter guide to help people navigate the election, and make decisions that are in keeping with their commitment to opportunity and people powered change.
In many states, voter ID laws and other barriers to the ballot are discouraging our most underrepresented citizens to just stay home. One group that has taken action against that trend is the National Center for Transgender Equality. They have created a series of resources under the banner Voting While Trans to help trans people with some of the unique issues that might come up for them, and it’s a lesson to all of us about how to stand up for ourselves and others around this important civil right and civic duty.
Because every vote is essentially a vote for yourself, your future and the future of your family and your community. Which is why we are fans of Strong Families “Vote for Us” campaign. [Not just because we helped out on the project. We swear!] This comprehensive effort helps voters identify the issues that matter to them and their families, and trains them how to evaluate candidates and ballot measures based on these issues.
Strong Families also created a voter guide that uses the “Strong Families Filter” to help people sort through the rhetoric and figure out which candidates and measures really are a vote for us. They have also created a series of creative and beautiful online sharing tools that help people celebrate voting.
So with the election just a few weeks away, its time to dig in our heels, roll up our sleeves and get our organizations and ourselves working hard to make sure that every vote cast is a vote for us – our values, our interests and our communities.
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Photo courtesy of Strong Families.
Amanda Cooper is a LightBox collaborator who wants all families represented in the voting booth on November 6.