Our innovative voter registration, mobilization, and turnout programs, and the research that undergirds them, require a team of experts.
The Voter Participation Center began as Women’s Voices. Women Vote (WVWV) in 2003. We were the first major organization to identify unmarried women as a crucial, yet unrecognized, political constituency, and to recognize marital status as a major factor in women’s political participation. We were also the first organization to popularize a fundamental dynamic in the American electorate: the “marriage gap” between unmarried women and married women in registering and turning out to vote.
In our first year of operation, we met the challenge of identifying and contacting unmarried women — a hard-to-find, highly mobile group — by using a list-based approach that targeted by demographic characteristics rather than geographical location. This proved to be a much more effective and efficient way to reach the greatest number of voters and non-voters and encourage them to register and vote.
In 2005, we incorporated WVWV as a stand-alone 501(c)(3) organization, continuing to run programs designed to close the participation gap between married and unmarried women in the electorate.
We pioneered a unique approach among civic engagement groups, because of our emphasis on research and development. Through controlled experiments, demographic research, and public opinion surveys, we developed and refined programs, tools, tactics, and messages to reach unmarried women in ways that were more cost-effective, and with longer-lasting effects, than previous efforts.
In the process, we discovered that the same methods and methodologies used to bring unmarried women into the electorate also worked well with other key under-represented demographics — people of color and millennials.
By 2008, the models, list enhancements, research-driven messaging and materials we’d developed — along with cost-effective, complementary collaborations with partners — provided us with an unprecedented and unique reach and a singular ability to motivate and mobilize what was coming to be known as the Rising American Electorate: unmarried women, people of color, and millennials.
In 2011 we formally changed our name to the Voter Participation Center, in order to reflect our shift in focus from unmarried women to the whole of the Rising American Electorate. (The WVWV name survives with our 501(c)(4) sister organization, the Women’s Voices Women Vote Action Fund, dedicated to outreach to unmarried women and the Rising American Electorate to promote reproductive choice, economic progress, and government and political reform.)
We’ve crossed many milestones since then: the biggest voter registration mailing ever in a non-presidential year in 2014, the 2015 launch of the Voter Participation Data Center as a new platform to highlight our research, and our three-millionth voter registration in 2016. Our innovative research has enabled us to bend the cost curve, lowering the cost per net additional vote and increasing response rates.
But our approach and our mission remain largely the same today as in 2003. We continue working to ensure that all Americans are able to cast their ballot and raise their voices in our democracy — no matter their gender, marital status, race, or age.
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