The Voter Participation Center was formerly known as Women’s Voices. Women Vote (WVWV). The name was formally changed in 2011 to reflect how the organization expanded its focus beyond its original emphasis on unmarried women to include the entire Rising American Electorate (RAE). The RAE – which is made up of unmarried women, people of color and 18-29 years olds – is now 53.5% of the voting-eligible population. WVWV will remain a project of the Voter Participation Center, focused on never-married, divorced, widowed and separated women.
The VPC, then WVWV, began as a project of the Tides Center in 2003 and was the first major organization to identify unmarried women as a crucial, yet unrecognized, constituency and to recognize marital status as determining political participation. The VPC also was the first organization to popularize a fundamental dynamic in the American electorate: the “marriage gap” – the fact that married women are much more likely than unmarried women to register and vote.
In its first year of operation, the VPC met the challenge of identifying and contacting unmarried women – a hard to find, highly mobile group – by using a list-based approach to encourage them to register and to vote. The VPC pioneered the use of lists to register and turn out voters based on their demographic characteristics, not based on their geographical location – a much more effective, efficient and impactful way to reach the greatest number of voters and non-voters.
Incorporated as a stand-alone 501(c)(3) in 2005, VPC continued to run programs designed to close the participation gap between married and unmarried women in the electorate. But the VPC discovered that the same methods and methodologies used to bring unmarried women into the electorate also worked well with the other key under-represented demographics – people of color and people under 30 years of age. By 2008, the VPC’s models, list enhancements, research-driven messaging and materials, and cost-effective, complementary collaborations with partners, provided the organization with an unprecedented and unique reach and a singular ability to motivate and mobilize the RAE.
Since its inception, the VPC has been unique among civic engagement groups because of its reliance on Research & Development (R&D). From controlled experiments to measure and improve programmatic effectiveness and cost-efficiency to demographic and public opinion surveys, the VPC uses a broad array of research instruments to develop and refine programs, tools and tactics designed to increase the democratic participation of the RAE. The VPC’s commitment to R&D has enabled it to continually bend the cost curve, lower the cost per net additional vote, produce a net effect (a net additional vote or other activity that would not have happened were it not for VPC’s programs), increase response rates, and register more than two million members of the RAE to vote.
The VPC has a 501 (c)(4) sister organization, the Women’s Voices Women Vote Action Fund (WVWVAF).