Thousands of Volunteers Contacted 300,000 New and Infrequent Voters Creating a Groundswell of Support
LOS ANGELES – A large-scale ground game across California was a key factor in Prop 47’s victory, building support and momentum for the initiative among newly registered and infrequent voters in African American, Asian Pacific American and Latino communities.
On October 4, California Calls Action Fund “Yes on Prop 47” in partnership with PICO California Action Fund rolled out a 4-1/2 week statewide get-out-the-vote operation, contacting over 300,000 infrequent voters, and identifying 250,000 “yes” votes for Prop 47, the criminal justice measure that will reduce sentencing for six non-violent low level crimes, and redirect the annual savings from prisons to prevention programs and victim services.
“We have been laying the foundation for this victory for years, organizing to expand the electorate by targeting young people, new citizens, people of color, and working families who are typically overlooked by electoral campaigns and the polls,” said Anthony Thigpenn, President of California Calls Action Fund “Yes on Prop 47.” “California’s electorate is increasingly more reflective of the population that lives here, and more diverse than the national electorate.” According to exit polls, 37% of the California electorate on Tuesday was comprised of Latino, African-American, and API voters, compared to only 25% nationally. This contrasts with only 22% of people of color voters in California when the “Three Strikes” initiative (Prop 184) passed in 1994.
Nearly 8,000 grassroots leaders phoned and walked door to door to new and infrequent voters in 14 Counties of California: Sacramento, Stanislaus, San Joaquin, Fresno, Kern, San Bernardino, Riverside, Los Angeles, Orange, San Diego, San Francisco, Santa Clara, Ventura and Santa Barbara. The coordinated grassroots effort re-contacted 40,000 supporters in the four days before the election to motivate them to the polls on November 4.
“Our communities vote when there are issues on the ballot that affect them directly,” said Gilbert Johnson, a leader in South Los Angeles who participated in the grassroots campaign. “Nearly 50,000 people will be given a second chance to rebuild their lives after making a small mistake. That’s why we saw such enthusiasm when we recruited volunteers and talked to voters at their doors.”
“Most campaigns parachute canvassers in a few weeks before the election, and then close up shop after Election Day,” said Pablo Rodriguez, Executive Director of Communities for a New California, a member organization of California Calls that mobilizes voters in Fresno and Coachella. “Our strategy is to educate voters on the impact of state and local elections, build trust over time, and follow up to ensure they get to the polls. Over time, we’ve increased turnout of these voters by 8-15%.”
Since 2009, the statewide alliance has implemented 13 civic engagement programs targeting new and infrequent voters to expand the electorate, and has contacted 800,000 voters and identified 580,000 who support prioritizing state and local funding to communities most impacted by poverty and disinvestment, raising new revenue by taxing the wealthy and large corporations, and expanding democracy by increasing voter turnout and restoring voting rights for the formerly incarcerated. Nearly 440,000 of these supporters voted in November 2012 for the revenue initiative Prop 30, which represented 6% of the yes vote, carrying the initiative to victory.