Inside a brightly-painted East LA building, twelve young men and women, mostly Latino, sit at long tables, each wearing large headphones and gazing attentively at a laptop. Speaking energetically in Spanish or in English, with both excitement and confidence, this phone bank team will have over 150 conversations with voters in under an hour.
This is what transformative change looks like. Over the course of the California Alliance’s March Civic Engagement Program, Inner City Struggle (ICS) – an East LA youth organizing group — contacted over 10,000 voters. Since last Fall, they have had over 20,000 conversations – an unprecedented feat for the organization. ICS, along with the other 18 community-based organizations that comprise the California Alliance, have collectively spoken to over 330,000 voters. This past few months’ newfound capacity dwarfs the Alliance’s previous efforts –when reaching 40,000 voters was considered a victory–and demonstrates the potential of this first-of-its kind civic engagement strategy.
Achieving scale was a top goal of the November 2009 and March 2010 programs. They were test-drives for the coalition’s state-of-the-art, high-tech predictive dialing system and dynamic precinct walk programs by grassroots leaders across the state.
The November and March tests were the first steps towards the Alliance goal of identifying and mobilizing a base of 500,000 voters who support progressive tax reform. From the March test, the Alliance has learned a number of lessons about the voters it is trying to motivate and their orientation towards taxation:
- The youth of ICS’s community phone bank team matches key trends: 61% and 55% of contacted voters ages 18 to 24 and 25 to 34, respectively, support progressive tax reform. Motivating young voters is a critical component to achieving systemic change in California.
- The Alliance has expanded rapidly into traditionally “red” areas of the state and the March results are proof. In these “shifting” areas, 42% of voters say they’re in favor of reform. While not a majority, 42% is a substantive constituency to organize.
- There is still much work to be done, but the outlook is promising. 50% of voters support progressive tax reform while just 11% are opposed.
With lessons from the March program in hand, the Alliance began its first get-out-the-vote program late in May. This is the first program based around an election – the June 8th primary – and has challenged anchor organizations to meet the demands of a tight election calendar. The June campaign will test the Alliance’s ability to turn out new and occasional voters to the polls in low-income communities across the state. Setting up, scaling up, and honing an electoral apparatus now prepares Alliance groups for tipping the scales towards tax reform in the future.
The Alliance will include a full June report in this summer’s newsletter.