2011 and 2012 Programs

The Voter Participation Center (VPC), formerly known as Women’s Voices. Women Vote (WVWV) conducts programs that are designed to boost the registration, turnout, issue awareness and civic involvement of the Rising American Electorate (RAE). The RAE is made up of unmarried women (women who are single, widowed, divorced or separated), people of color and young people who combined comprise 53 percent of the voting eligible population – but were only 42 percent of 2010 voters and 47 percent of the electorate in 2008.

Because unmarried women make up such a large portion of the RAE and marital status is a top determinant of whether or not one registers, votes, and participates, unmarried women continue to be a unique focus of the VPC’s efforts.

In 2010, more than 71 million RAE voting-eligible members did not vote: 46 million were not registered to vote; 25 million were registered but did not turnout.  In 2008, the last presidential election year, more than 46 million Rising American Electorate members failed to vote. Of those non-voters, 37 million were not registered compared to 9 million who were. In the 2008 presidential election, for every one voter in the RAE who was registered and did not vote, there were four who were unregistered and therefore could not vote. In that same year, the VPC generated 946,822 voter registration applications in support of the mission.

Right now large percentages of these groups are not registered to vote:

  • 39 percent of unmarried women are not registered, representing  28 percent of all unregistered citizens
  • 51 percent of young people between 18 and 29 are not registered, representing  31 percent of all unregistered citizens
  • 37 percent of African Americans are not registered,  representing 12 percent of all unregistered citizens
  • 48 percent of Latinos are not registered, representing 12 percent of all unregistered citizens.

Clearly, increasing RAE participation begins with registration and the recognition that more than episodic, on-year outreach must be done to increase information levels, advocacy, RAE turnout and civic engagement.  The sheer numbers of people who make up the RAE, the fact that these are the demographic groups most likely to be unregistered, highly mobile, politically disengaged and to have little political information, combined with  recent and extensive changes to the rules of voter participation, demands a new, persistent and continuous approach to increasing their civic engagement.

The VPC has a number of research-based, proven and cost-effective registration, turnout and advocacy programs all of which are measured for their impact and effect. The VPC understands and can prove what works, what doesn’t, and how much it costs Because of this strategic R & D approach, the VPC is unique in its ability to reach and mobilize the RAE through a variety of scalable programs that are not redundant but  complementary to other outreach efforts.

The long-term goal of the VPC is to ensure that the RAE is no longer underrepresented in the electorate and that their voices are heard in numbers proportionate to their strength in the population. To do this, registering and voting must be made easier and the RAE’s information levels and civic engagement must be increased. The desired outcome is to create an infrastructure of engaged citizens who vote, speak out, and weigh in on issues that matter to them and elect representatives who represent their values. The work of the VPC does not end with Election Day, but is just beginning.

2012 Programs

In 2012 the VPC is conducting research-driven year-round civic engagement, information-raising and voter registration and turnout programs in states with large RAE and unregistered RAE populations. The plan is to mobilize the largest number of voters in these states by doing what the VPC does best: conducting control group tests of its programs to learn how to do it smarter, better, faster and cheaper both in-cycle and cycle to cycle; learning from and building on the advances made by the state tables, the Analyst Institute, VPC programs and others; and, mining the treatment data and survey research the VPC conducts to develop cutting edge models for  the entire community to ensure rapid advances in effectiveness and cost-efficiency.

The programs that the VPC runs in 2011 and 2012 reflect the learnings that have occurred since 2003 when WVWV first opened its doors. Building new models and conducting an aggressive battery of programs and experiments in 2011 will allow the VPC to test and refine targeting tools, registration and turnout strategies, and mail messaging and packaging options.  These, in turn, will benefit the broader community and result in increased voter engagement and participation by Latino, African American, young and unmarried women voters, now and in 2012 and beyond.

The signature programs of the VPC include:

  1. Voter Registration
  2. Vote By Mail (VBM)
  3. Get Out the Vote (GOTV) Programs
  4. Voter Information Efforts around New Voting Rules and Restrictions
  5. Educational and mobilization efforts around local, state and national issues

As in years past, the goals of the VPC are ambitious. By November 2012, the VPC hopes to have made 30 million contacts with RAE citizens. More specifically, the VPC aims to generate 1 million returned voter registration applications (slightly more than the VPC’s 2008 total) and 250,000 VBM applications as well as reach ambitious turnout goals for its new registrants, first-time 2010 voters and others who score low on a RAE specific turnout model.

VPC Registration and Turnout Programs

The VPC 2011 and 2012 registration and turnout programs have been built on lessons learned from the evaluations of previous cycles’ programs and the control group experiments.  In 2010, the VPC, then known as WVWV, ran programs in 21 states and contacted 4,020,551 RAE citizens. In 2008, the VPC made 30 million contacts in 35 states. The VPC has run hundreds of major controlled tests (along with scores of minor tests) that were built on previous learnings or designed to confirm results achieved in the past.

Those 2010 lessons that are reflected in current VPC registration programs include:

  • conducting quarterly voter registration programs improves response rates and cuts costs per net additional vote
  • reaching out to register young people just before they turn 18 and movers soon after their move yields better results and lowers the cost per net additional vote
  • using state voter registration forms instead of the national voter registration form  lifts the response rates by 14 percent
  • overlaying phone and mail contacts on a traditional door-to-door canvass can generate significant synergies in terms of registration response
  • a list-based approach and utilizing modeling increases response rates
  • a simple “plain” mail piece is more effective than a glossy mail piece with beautiful photos both for voter registration and informing about candidates
  • asking someone to make a promise to vote or to talk to their friends about voting and reminding them about those promises increases their turnout in elections