The Rising American Electorate: Bringing Democracy Home

Brianna Thomas, Field Director

Since starting with the Washington Housing Alliance Action Fund in April, I have had the opportunity to work with many great coalition partners. These are groups that strive daily to improve the conditions of workers, protect the rights of women, preserve nature and our natural resources for future generations, and strive to ensure that each and every vote gets counted. We are all working to do our part, but we can only do so much. Unless voters take up their ballots and exercise the hard fought responsibility to vote, our efforts fall flat.

We get better public policy when people who are directly impacted by the issues participate in the political discourse. That’s why in my field work world, I think a lot about a particular category of voter that I’m especially conscious of mobilizing. The Rising American Electorate (or RAE) includes people of color, people under the age of 30, and single women. RAE voters experience greater barriers to civic engagement, often work multiple jobs, and due to repeated exclusion may not feel like their votes or voices matter. However, the math holds this to be false.

Nationally the RAE comprises 53% of the voting eligible population or 115 million voters. Here in Washington, we make up more than 1.86 million potential voters. During presidential electoral years, the discrepancy between turnout for RAE voters and non-RAE turnout is fairly low. However, in the three years between presidential elections (years like this one) the voter drop off among the RAE is three times that of non-RAE voters. If all the 2012 RAE voters participated this November, we would have an additional 421,000 voters engaged here in Washington. While I often hear, “one vote doesn’t make a difference,” I can assure you that 421,000 votes most certainly does!

Current estimates project that only 17% of voters in communities of color will vote this November. Of voters under 30, only 10% will actually mail in their ballots. And of single women, only 12% will employ their Nineteenth Amendment rights. With these projections, the RAE will make up just 19% of this November’s electorate. That’s 1 in 5 votes.

At the same time, people who make up the RAE are disproportionately impacted by poverty and the high cost of housing. In Seattle, 1 in 10 Black and American Indian public school students are homeless. While 1 in 71 White students is homeless. Nationally, 30% of single parent households headed by women are living in poverty. When elected officials seek to balance budgets, they often first cut the very programs that provide homes and alleviate poverty for members of the RAE. By voting, the RAE can help send people to Olympia who’ll fight for what they and their families need.

But we need YOUR help. In an election year like this, with few high-profile races on the ballot, it’ll take a lot of effort to engage new and less frequent voters. You can help by joining us to knock on doors and make phone calls. Campaign wisdom tells us it takes 14 knocks or 28 phone calls to get just one ballot in, so please join us in our efforts to turn out the Rising American Electorate. The Action Fund has a goal of making 10,000 phone calls this election season, and we are well on our way.

With 64 Housing Candidates across the state, there is likely a candidate near you that needs your vote and your voice. Please join us in taking ACTION this fall. Get your friends, family, coworkers, and neighbors to turn in their ballots, and help us bring democracy home!

Photos: (Right) Komonews on flickr. (Left) RAE voter drop-off in the state of Washington from voterparticipation.org.

Today, Monday, October 6 is the last day for online voter registration! It takes just 3 minutes here. Confirm your registration, or register a friend.

Check out this recent report for more information about the Rising American Electorate (or RAE) voter drop-off.