We partner with America’s nonprofits to help the people they serve participate and vote because we recognize nonprofits (particularly service-based organizations) are uniquely positioned to provide voting information to people who utilize their services. 

Engaging New Voters Report

Through our 2018 Engaging New Voters program and related report, we found that:

  • Nonprofits reach voters often left out of the political process.. Voters engaged by the nonprofits were twice as likely to be non-white, twice as likely to have a low-income, and twice as likely to be under the age of 25 than the average registered voter in the states that were studied.
  • Nonprofit engagement boosts turnout. These voters, when engaged by nonprofits, turned out at rates 11 percentage points higher than comparable voters in their communities (66% vs. 55%). 
  • Best practices for a successful program. The report also discusses best practices from nonprofits who saw success in engaging voters and common challenges.  

Related Research Showing Nonprofit Impacts on Turnout and Registration Gaps

The Problem – Income Gap: About 40% of those earning under $30k were represented in the electorate compared to almost 70% of those earning $50k+ Source: 2018 Census Voting and Registration Data

Nonprofit Impact: In 2018, half of NOVA’s (Northeast Ohio Voter Advocates) Voter Registrations (VR) and Vote by Mail applications (VBMs) were obtained at “low-income sites” like food banks and MetroHealth. They found that their VR increased turnout by nine  percentage points above the 44% turnout of the precinct while VBM (with or without registration) increased turnout by 16 percentage points.

The Problem – Race Gap: About 40% of Hispanics were represented in the electorate compared to 55% of White people in 2018. Source: 2018 Census Voting and Registration Data

Nonprofit Impact: Brookings worked with VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) sites in Cleveland, OH and Dallas, TX in 2018 to register their clients to vote. Called the “Filer Voter program,” through a Randomized Control Trial they found that the program more than doubled the likelihood of an unregistered person registering to vote. In both states, almost 75% of the participants were either Black or Latinx. Doing VR also had no measurable change in the rate of services. 

The Problem – Health Equity: A 2017 study on social capital and health care found that higher civic engagement was associated with more health equity (Zhu 2017)

Nonprofit Impact: A 2014 voter registration project at two federally qualified health centers in NY showed that of the patients who were eligible and not already registered, 89% agreed to register to vote through the project. 

Understanding Non-Voters

Characteristics of Non-Voters: The 100 Million Project conducted by the Knight Foundation explored non-voters in 2016 and biases people may have about non-voters. Their research explores the reason eligible citizens didn’t cast a ballot in 2016 and how that may impact future elections. 

Youth Voters: About 40% of 18-29 year-olds were represented in the voting electorate compared to 70% of those 60+ years of age. Source: 2016 US Election Project. The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement(CIRCLE) provides critical information about how young people engage in the democratic process. Explore how young people may affect voting in your state in 2020 by exploring the Youth Electoral Significance Index (YESI).

The Voter Journey: “The real problem is that voting in America is just hard.” Source: Center for Civic Design. The Center for Civic Design documents “The Epic Journey for American voters” showing how the process is easier for voters who have voted in several elections and explores the barriers that are unique to first-time voters.

Election Policies Affect Voter Turnout

America Goes to the Polls cover page

Every two years, we release our America Goes to the Polls report that tracks changing election policies in the US and how they affect turnout and access to the ballot. In 2018, we saw record turnout for a midterm election. Explore our analysis through America Goes to the Polls 2018 report.