Poverty Action’s annual Vote for a Change campaign seeks to mobilize new and infrequent voters in low income communities and communities of color through voter registration, education and participation with members and community partners around Washington state.
In contrast to campaigns that court frequent voters in middle class neighborhoods, Poverty Action’s goal is to reach out to new voters typically ignored by mainstream campaigns. We know that our communities get out a powerful vote when they feel connected to a network that inspires and mobilizes them.
We also recognize that different communities face different barriers to civic engagement. Because of the unique barrier that previously incarcerated people face, Poverty Action helped pass the 2009 Voting Rights Restoration Act, which restored voting rights to 400,000 people with felony convictions who are working to repay their fines. After the passage of this law, we launched an aggressive campaign to reach out to these newly re-enfranchised previously incarcerated people in South King, Pierce and Yakima County and let them know about their increased rights, register them to vote, and ensure they have full access to their voting rights.
Components of the Campaign
- Registration. Each year, Poverty Action hits the streets to register voters in low-income communities. We knock on doors, attend community events, and engage our community partners, both to register voters, as well as talk to them about their voting rights and the issues on their ballots. Be sure your voter registration is up-to-date.
- Education. In addition to registration, we make sure that voters have the information they need to vote. Every year, we call and mail a postcard to thousands of voters with information about ballot measures and initiatives. During elections with candidate races, Poverty Action publishes a statewide voters’ guide that publishes candidate’s responses to our questions about the issues that matter most to our members: jobs, education, healthcare, racial equity, debt and more.
- Mobilization. In order to ensure that people remember to mail in their ballots, Poverty Action calls to remind people to vote in the weeks leading up to the election, as well as hosting ballot parties in our target communities to provide a fun space for people to discuss the issues on the ballot and vote.
It’s not over on Election Day. Registering, educating and turning out voters is not the end of the cycle. We then connect these voters to the legislative process in the spring. Poverty Action engages every new Vote For A Change voter in our efforts to preserve basic needs programs, rein in predatory lenders, reform aspects of the criminal justice system, and eliminate the unique barriers to housing and other programs that previously incarcerated people face.
By increasing the voting power of low-income communities and communities of color, we increase the power and clarity of the collective anti-poverty agenda in the legislature. It is when people with low incomes and people of color are educated about the issues and have higher voting rates, that lawmakers will truly feel accountable to the needs of those communities.