The Million Voters Project: The Next Frontier for Shifting the California Electorate

IMG_3149Demographics are not destiny.  While California leads the nation in demographic change, progressive policy reforms, and powerful organizing, demographic shifts can be interrupted, reversed, or move to the right without sustained outreach, education and mobilization.

The Million Voters Project, an alliance of 6 powerful state-based networks, is gearing up for their first step in strategically transforming the electorate by contacting over 1 million voters and mobilizing over 700,000 of them to the polls in the November 2016 General Election.

Building a Powerful Strategic Collaboration

The Million Voters Project unites California’s strongest state-based community networks with a proven track record of mobilizing the vote of the rising electorate, including African-Americans and Latinos, Asian Pacific Islanders, immigrants, faith-based constituencies, young voters and poor and working class communities.  Since the project was launched last fall, the alliance has grown to six organizations with the addition of CHIRLA, one of California’s most far-reaching immigrant rights’ organizations with a deep capacity and history of civic engagement.

Over the past several months, the 6 partners have developed a coordinated multi-year civic engagement plan that will be driven by the 47 local affiliates of the partner organizations to engage and mobilize new and infrequent voters in 19 counties across the state. This year’s plan includes turning out over 700,000 new and infrequent voters who would otherwise be unlikely to vote.

Million Voters Project Action Fund: Guaranteeing Progressive Choices in November

Voters may be asked to decide on up to 20 ballot initiatives in November. In such a crowded field of petitions, the traditional strategy of campaigns relying on paid signature gathering firms was insufficient on its own. Three proposition campaigns turned to the partners in the Million Voters Project Action Fund to engage communities that are most impacted by the proposed ballot initiatives, but the most often overlooked in the signature gathering process.

In just over one month, over 160,000 signatures were gathered to help three initiatives qualify for the November ballot that will continue the momentum of progressive change in California: the Public Safety and Rehabilitation Act of 2016  the California Healthcare, Research and Prevention Tobacco Tax Act of 2016, and the Children’s Education and Health Care Protection Act 

Closing the Voter Registration Gap

Being registered to vote is the first fundamental step in civic participation. There are 7.3 million Californians who are eligible but not registered to vote in California, and they are predominantly people of color, young people, low-income people, and immigrants. This summer, the Million Voters Project partners will launch a multi-year voter registration effort to enlist a quarter of a million voters (3.5% of the voters eligible but not registered to vote) into the electorate by 2018. For phase one of this effort, our goal is to register 75,000 new voters this summer to engage in the November 2016 general election.

African-American Civic Engagement Project: Building Power in California’s Black Communities

Thank you to the generous support of the African American Civic Engagement Project Funders:

Akonadi Foundation

Black Civic Engagement Fund

California Community Foundation

The California Endowment

The California Wellness Foundation

The Evelyn and Walter Haas Jr. Foundation

The James Irvine Foundation

The San Francisco Foundation

The Rosenberg Foundation

The Wallace Alexander

Gerbode Foundation

A new opportunity and need to engage African American voters has emerged in the wake of Black Lives Matter and a growing national movement to raise public awareness and accountability around police brutality, mass incarceration and the problem of school-to-prison pipeline practices in public schools.

California is home to the 5th largest black population in the country.  African-Americans play a defining role in electing progressive candidates and passing progressive laws. As “likely voters” in the Black community age, it is critical to engage and motivate younger generations to step into leadership and civic engagement at higher rates.

Additionally, the political power of African Americans is dispersing as more families are displaced from historic African American neighborhoods in urban centers, and move to suburbs and rural counties.  Building movement infrastructure beyond the cities is key to ensuring the pressing needs of black communities are addressed, and their political voice is sustained.

On April 20th, California Calls and key funding partners officially launched the African American Civic Engagement Project to respond to these issues with an approach grounded in grassroots organizing linked to electoral participation.

This project brings together 12 dynamic grassroots organizations to expand civic engagement, and support a new wave of movement building in black communities across California. The African-American project partners are on the frontlines of developing young black leaders, expanding reproductive services for black women, fighting for college access, providing re-entry services for the formerly incarcerated, and organizing the homeless.


Introducing the African American Civic Engagement Project Cohort: Alameda County: Youth Uprising, Black Organizing Project; Contra Costa County: A Safe Return Project, Building Blocks for Kids; Los Angeles County: A New Way of Life, Los Angeles Community Action Network, Black Women for Wellness; San Bernardino County: BLU Educational Foundation, Congregations Organizing for Prophetic Engagement (COPE), Time for Change; San Diego County: Pillars of the Community, Partnership for the Advancement of New Americans

Two weeks ago, 8 of the groups launched their first integrated voter engagement program.  Nearly 140 Grassroots leaders will contact over 15,000 black voters in their local communities to motivate them to vote in the California Primary on June 7.

African American Civic Engagement Project

For the next two years, California Calls will assist these grassroots organizations to build their capacity and organizing muscle.  The training program will draw on over six years of experience, experimentation, and proven results that have helped California Calls reach out and talk to over 1 million new and occasional voters since 2009, and increase turnout of these voters by over 15%.

Find out more, sign up to get AACE Project Updates here.

“We Are California”: California Calls pilots bold plan to take civic engagement to a new level

13227191_1152780884765960_934126435947448527_nSince 2009, California Calls and our anchors have worked year-round engaging voters through a masterful amalgam of traditional organizing tactics and innovative technology. Transforming the electorate to represent the population has been a central focus and a success – with 500,000 new and occasional voters turning out in the November 2012 election, and over 620,000 identifying their growing support for social equity and progressive tax reform since then. Now California Calls is adding a deeper level of power-building to our grassroots organizing.

This Spring, California Calls launched “We Are California” – a campaign calling on the California majority to use their power to create laws that work for ALL Californians, not just big corporations or the richest 1%.  This distortion of our political system has led to policies that keep 1 in 7 Californians living in poverty, disproportionately incarcerate Blacks and Latinos, and under-fund public education from kindergarten to the university.

“We Are California” will work through California Calls’ member organizations across the state, tapping into their local, grassroots base of supporters. Supporters are asked to pledge to vote in every election.  The “We Are California” effort will then follow-up to urge them to move to a deeper level of action including signing online petitions, attending local community meetings and joining local actions.  The campaign also provides easy ways that “We Are California” voters can help grow power in their communities by engaging family and friends, expanding beyond the reach of California Calls.

Before the June 7th Primary, California Calls’ grassroots leaders will contact over 100,000 voters statewide and motivate them to use their power at the polls on Election Day.  Since launching this drive on May 15, 78% of voters contacted have agreed to join “We Are California”, a very promising response for the future.

California Calls has developed an easy to understand “We Are California” digital voter guide. The digital voter guide will help voters navigate the long ballot and emphasize the importance of voting down the ballot on state and local races. Click here.

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