What We Learned!As 2013 ends, it’s the perfect time to reflect on what we learned this year.

This summer, Nonprofit VOTE released a two-part report, Can Nonprofits Increase Voting Among Their Clients, Constituents, and Staff? An Evaluation of the Track the Vote Program. While Part I of the report showcases the impact of nonprofit voter engagement on turnout in 2012, Part II tells the story of the nonprofits that talked to their communities about voting. By tracking the contacts nonprofits made with voters, we found:

  • Nonprofits were particularly effective at increasing voter turnout among groups that are traditionally underrepresented in the electoral process. Voter turnout of nonprofit voters compared to all registered voters was: 18 points higher for Latino voters, 15 points higher for voters under the age of 30, and 15 points higher for voters with household incomes under $25,000.
  • Disparities in voter turnout by age, income, race, and ethnicity narrowed or disappeared among voters engaged by the nonprofits compared to the large turnout gaps evident among registered voters.
  • The most successful nonprofits made their voter engagement plans early, giving them time to pilot their programs and make adjustments.
  • Staffing is a key consideration. This means not only having a staff lead organizing and planning activities, but also ensuring there is adequate staffing–provided internally or by a partner–to carry out the efforts.

In addition to our findings, other organizations also reported on new voting insights:

  • Turnout in states with Election Day Registration was 12.5 points higher than in states without it. Election Day Registration accounted for approximately 1 in 8 ballots cast on November 6, 2012 in the eight states (and DC) that allowed it at the time.
  • For young people without college experience, the existence of a photo ID law in their state predicted lower turnout in 2012. However, the same report found that same-day registration improved overall youth turnout.
  • Turnout among voters with disabilities was strong, despite difficulties. 30.1 percent of voters with disabilities reported difficulty in voting at a polling place, compared to 8.4% of voters without disabilities. Nevertheless, 15.6 million people with disabilities reported voting in the November 2012 elections, turning out at a rate 5.7 percentage points lower than that of people without disabilities.
  • 75 percent of disenfranchised voters live in their communities, either under probation or parole supervision or having completed their sentence. 5.85 million Americans are prohibited from voting due to laws that disenfranchise citizens convicted of felony offenses. However, since 1997, 23 states have modified felony disenfranchisement provisions to expand voter eligibility. As a result, from 1997 to 2010 an estimated 800,000 citizens have regained the right to vote.

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