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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

See also:
What YOU Can Do on Election Day to Make Sure ALL Votes Count
Even before this crucial election year began, NOW recognized that registering voters and motivating them to vote must be a large focus of its 2004 agenda. This effort required NOW to use all the skills and resources at its disposal. Getting out the vote meant focusing NOW's energy and efforts at both the local and national level.

Under NOW's Drive for Equality campaign, the National Action Center implemented two specialized projects—RENEW 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.

NOW Foundation's RENEW organizers in Washington state are helping register and mobilize voters. Staff and volunteers are also working hard to get out the vote in Illinois and nationwide.
NOW Foundation's RENEW organizers in Washington state are helping register and mobilize voters. Staff and volunteers are also working hard to get out the vote in Illinois and nationwide.

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.

Washington—Jan 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.

Illinois—LaVida 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, 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:

  • Vote early and in person at your county election office if permitted in your state, or request an absentee ballot—so that you can be available to volunteer on election day.

  • Work closely with a local NOW chapter or other voter mobilization group in your community on a get-out-the-vote effort.

  • Volunteer to help (or ratchet up your efforts on behalf of) your favorite feminist or progressive candidate—local, state or national.

  • Take every chance to promote your issues to the candidates and in public forums, letters to the editor and any media outlet that will air your views.

  • Plan to take time off during the last few days before the election; phone, walk neighborhoods, distribute literature and remind people to vote.

  • Volunteer to be an election monitor or exit-pollster, especially if you live in what people are calling "hot-spot" or crisis states.
"This may be the most important election of our lives—and certainly for the lives of the next generation," said NOW President Kim Gandy. "We need to see you and your friends, family and neighbors at the polls on Nov. 2."

For more information, please visit 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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