A Message From Becky Cain, Chair, League Of Women Voters Education Fund

In 1996, the League of Women Voters Education Fund carried out a comprehensive, nationwide get-out-the-vote (GOTV) campaign that focused on getting racial and ethnic minorities and other underrepresented populations to the polls. This publication highlights some of the lessons learned in the course of the League's 1996 GOTV effort, from how to create a broad-based community coalition to what forums work best when reaching out to diverse audiences. It also includes several in-depth case studies of successful outreach efforts, and lists contact names and number for each. This guide was created to offer models and guidance to community organizations and community activists--members and nonmembers of the League alike--on what works to spur widespread involvement in local problem solving on any issue, from elections and voting to the environment, public safety, housing and more.

The League of Women Voters is committed to the values of diversity, inclusiveness and the power of collective decision making for the common good. We are delighted to share the information in these pages with others who are similarly committed--and who agree with us that successful communities are communities that work together to solve their problems, communities where everyone is involved in shaping solutions, no matter their race or ethnicity or their place on the socioeconomic ladder. This is what we mean by communities of inclusion.

Thank you. And good luck!

INTRODUCTION

CHANGE. It's the buzzword of the new century. But how can you make it happen? How can your organization take steps to create a better community, a better world? The answer is by working with others. By collaborating. By recognizing that today's biggest problems affect everyone in our communities, and that we can find solutions if we work together.
It's no secret that America is changing from a nation with a large majority-white population to one where racial and ethnic minorities are moving closer to majority status, especially in certain regions and metropolitan areas. The results will affect the entire nation, in terms of the economy, politics, government priorities and voting districts, and so on.

  • Today, 73 percent of Americans are non-Hispanic whites; 12.6 percent are African American; 10.5 percent are of Hispanic origin; 3.3 percent are Asian American; and less than 1 percent are American Indians, Aleuts or Eskimos.
  • By 2050, however, the proportion of non-Hispanic whites in the U.S. population will drop dramatically--to 53 percent--while the Hispanic population climbs to 24.5 percent, the African American population to 13.6 percent, the Asian American population to 8.1 percent, and the population of American Indians, Aleuts and Eskimos to about 1 percent.

What this means for community organizations seeking to bring about lasting change is simple. It means it's time right now to recognize the demographic shifts that are under way in our communities and our country and to reach out to diverse audiences that can help us shape solutions for the common good. Our goal should be to create communities of inclusion--communities that work together and that reach across the lines of race, ethnicity and economics to build a better future.

Survey: Community Involvement, Voting Linked

Lots of good things come hand-in-hand with creating a community of inclusion. And one of them, according to a recent League of Women Voters survey, is a higher level of political participation. The March 1996 survey of voters and nonvoters across the country suggests that those who are involved in their communities are more likely to vote. More than two-thirds of voters (68 percent) reported involvement in two or more community organizations, including a union; a church or synagogue; a PTA group; or a business, civic and social club. The comparable figure for nonvoters was less than half (49 percent).

 

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