By Berg, Linda; Reuss, Pat
National NOW Times , Vol. 36, No. 2
Even before this crucial election year began, NOW recognized that registering voters and motivating them to vote must be a large focus of its 2004 agenda. This effort required NOW to use all the skills and resources at its disposal. Getting out the vote meant focusing NOWs energy and efforts at both the local and national level.
Under NOW's Drive for Equality campaign, the National Action Center implemented two specialized projects - RENEW and 10 for Change. RENEW (Registering and Empowering New Women voters) focuses on utilizing full-time and part-time grassroots organizers to mobilize new and lapsed voters.
10 for Change capitalizes on the power of the Internet to involve individuals in registering and motivating their friends to vote. Whether pounding the pavement or a keyboard, both projects share the same ultimate goal-promoting equal rights and justice in the United States by increasing the participation of women in the political process.
RENEW Mobilizes Voters in Key States
The NOW Foundation received a grant from America's Families United to conduct voter registration in Washington and Illinois, concentrating on under-represented communities. In addition, a small portion of the grant was earmarked to support chapter activist voter registration activities nationwide.
Washington - Jan Strout, a member of Seattle NOW and the Washington NOW state board, leads the Washington Women's Voter Project for NOW Foundation. Their target communities are women of color, young women and working-class/low-income women. Strout works with a crew of eight part-time organizers and local NOW volunteers who registered new voters in several Washington counties.
Each Monday night the team meets to debrief, plan the week's activities and canvas the community, using lists of unmarried women who are not registered to vote. In the 2000 elections, 22 million unmarried women did not vote. Each weekend in September, the , team caravanned to Tacoma, Wash., to register women voters.
Illinois - La Vida Davis, a feminist organizer with organizing experience within the African-American community in Chicago, heads up NOW Foundation's Cook County Women Vote Project. Our goal is to increase the registration and participation of African-American and Latina voters in the Chicago area. Wearing bright orange t-shirts with the slogan "Respect Yourself Sister-Vote," Davis and her team of part-time organizers canvassed neighborhoods and events in the west and south side of Chicago. They forged relationships with the community colleges, Head-Start programs, high schools and domestic violence shelters, which opened their doors to help register voters.
Within Chicago's large unregistered population of people of color, we had registered over 1,700 new voters at press time, and the number climbs each week. Thus far the most under-registered people in this community have been young African-American men. For many of them, the war alone is a compelling reason to register and vote. NOW Foundation translated materials into Spanish and hired two part-time Spanish speaking organizers to try to increase registrations in that community as well. …