Grassroots efforts register voters in some of the region’s lowest-performing neighborhoods.
This past August, the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving launched a nonpartisan voter registration and get out the vote initiative for Greater Hartford to reach out to populations least likely to participate in federal, state and local elections. This effort primarily focused on young adults, Latinos and Black residents and people living in high poverty neighborhoods. The Foundation awarded thirteen grants totaling $116,565 to area nonprofits dedicated to informing and engaging underrepresented residents of Greater Hartford.
Over a three-month period, these organizations reached out to several thousand Greater Hartford residents, registering over 1,000 new voters and receiving 1,500 pledges to participate in the November 6 elections. Their broad array of programs took a grassroots approach, working through neighbors, youth, family centers, and libraries to help reach parents and students, returning citizens, LGBTQIA, first-generation Americans and residents of Hartford’s most challenged neighborhoods. Effective strategies used by participating organizations included neighborhood canvassing and hosting tables at public events. Some organizations also worked to register clients and staff during the course of their regular work, making voter engagement ongoing and sustainable.
“Community voice and participation in the electoral process are vital to creating and sustaining more vibrant communities,” said Hartford Foundation President Jay Williams. “We are gratified to see that so many residents took the important step of registering to vote and make their voices heard. We applaud the work done by all the nonprofit community organizations to engage residents in our political process. We hope they can build off these efforts keep them engaged in not just elections but in a wide array of civic activities. Empowering residents to become more engaged and use their voices to make positive community change is a cornerstone of the Foundation’s work and is embedded in our new strategic plan.”
These results mark the beginning--not the end--of this initiative as most of the organizations have more activities planned over the next several months. The Foundation is planning to engage in similar activities in preparation for 2019 municipal elections, which generally have significantly lower voter participation. Local elections determine mayors, council members, board of education members and other municipal posts that play a crucial role in running our cities and towns.
The Foundation will use lessons learned from these voter registration activities as a springboard to a campaign encouraging all residents to participate in the 2020 Census. There has been concern that a decision to include a question about individual citizenship would discourage participation, even though the law protects the confidentiality of all responses. An under-reported count of residents could lead to a loss of legislative representation, reduced federal funding for programs, and make Connecticut a less attractive place for businesses and individuals to relocate.
The 13 organizations participating in the Hartford Foundation’s Get Out the Vote Initiative include:
The Hartford Foundation for Public Giving is the community foundation for Hartford and 28 surrounding communities. Made possible by the gifts of generous individuals, families and organizations, the Foundation has awarded grants of more than $750 million since its founding in 1925. For more information about the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, visit www.hfpg.org or call 860-548-1888.