National NOW Times >> Fall 2004 >> Article
Getting Out the Vote Calls for Broad NOW Strategy
by Linda Berg, Political Director, and Pat Reuss, Senior Policy Analyst
Under NOW's Drive for Equality campaign, the National Action Center implemented two specialized projectsRENEW and 10 for Change. RENEW (Registering and Empowering New Women voters) focuses on utilizing full-time and part-time grassroots organizers to mobilize new and lapsed voters.
10 for Change capitalizes on the power of the Internet to involve individuals in registering and motivating their friends to vote. Whether pounding the pavement or a keyboard, both projects share the same ultimate goal—promoting equal rights and justice in the United States by increasing the participation of women in the political process.
RENEW Mobilizes Voters in Key States
The NOW Foundation received a grant from America's Families United to conduct voter registration in Washington and Illinois, concentrating on under-represented communities. In addition, a small portion of the grant was earmarked to support chapter activist voter registration activities nationwide.
WashingtonJan Strout, a member of Seattle NOW and the Washington NOW state board, leads the Washington Women's Voter Project for NOW Foundation. Their target communities are women of color, young women and working-class/low-income women. Strout works with a crew of eight part-time organizers and local NOW volunteers who registered new voters in several Washington counties.
Each Monday night the team meets to debrief, plan the week's activities and canvas the community, using lists of unmarried women who are not registered to vote. In the 2000 elections, 22 million unmarried women did not vote. Each weekend in September, the team caravanned to Tacoma, Wash., to register women voters.
IllinoisLaVida Davis, a feminist organizer with organizing experience within the African-American community in Chicago, heads up NOW Foundation's Cook County Women Vote Project. Our goal is to increase the registration and participation of African-American and Latina voters in the Chicago area. Wearing bright orange t-shirts with the slogan "Respect Yourself Sister–Vote," Davis and her team of part-time organizers canvassed neighborhoods and events in the west and south side of Chicago. They forged relationships with the community colleges, Head-Start programs, high schools and domestic violence shelters, which opened their doors to help register voters.
Within Chicago's large unregistered population of people of color, we had registered over 1,700 new voters at press time, and the number climbs each week. Thus far the most under-registered people in this community have been young African-American men. For many of them, the war alone is a compelling reason to register and vote. NOW Foundation translated materials into Spanish and hired two part-time Spanish speaking organizers to try to increase registrations in that community as well.
NOW has also encouraged chapters and activists to participate with NOW Founda-tion's voter registration project. Activists in several chapters agreed to register voters as part of the project, and plan to partner with the Georgia Coalition of Black Women to register voters throughout that state.
10 for Change
Scores of feminists and progressive activists spent the summer registering voters and talking about important election issues. Many still participate through 10 for Change, which kicked off with resounding success at this spring's March for Women's Lives in Washington, D.C.
Through 10forChange.org, people who lack free time or may be intimidated by political activism can become involved in the political process. Women and men are advancing through 10 guided steps designed to help them mobilize voters online and in their communities. The web site offers users facts, tips and tools at their fingertips, making voter registration easy for even the most "armchair" of activists.
As Election Day nears and state deadlines for voter registration pass (early October in many states), the focus of 10 for Change shifts toward educating newly-registered voters about important issues and motivating them to the polls.
In these final weeks and days before Nov. 2, NOW encourages activists to:
For more information, please visit www.10forchange.org. View the 6-minute video about why it is so important for women to vote, along with issue briefs, helpful tips and a comment section where you can send ideas and ask questions. If you do not have Internet access, please call us at 202-628-8669 .
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