By Kirk Clay

Can Anger and Frustration Be Channeled to Achieve Significant Gains in Politics?

Two years after President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, enslaved People of Color

Summary Map of counties covered and not covere...

Summary Map of counties covered and not covered by the Emancipation Proclamation. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

(POC) in Texas received word from the Union Army on June 19, 1865, that they were free. Today, that date is remembered and celebrated as Juneteenth and it commemorates the celebration of freedom for all Americans. It is also the day Election Protection – a program designed to protect all American’s right to vote – was launched. The pilot program was launched in Virginia’s 2001 special election to fill a seat in Congressional District 4.

I remember the day we began Election Protection – it was in response to the November 2000 election disaster. Progressive Whites and Voters of Color (VOC) in many states registered and turned out in record numbers, but many were turned away or had their votes invalidated.  We all know the story line of that election. But, in the discussion about which candidate won or lost and why, what is often unnoticed is that the biggest losers were, without a doubt, the voters.

Just like the disenfranchisement of 2000, floods of regressive laws that are being passed in red state legislatures today are hurting voters. The Tea Party extremists behind these initiatives remind us of how fragile our voting rights really are. In fact, VOC still face a combination of systemic inequities, inadequate voter education, and inappropriate actions by government officials. To make matters worse, as expressed at a recent anti-immigration rally, many of these obstructionists believe “The Melting Pot Floweth Over.”

There is a real danger that the actions of these politicians could fuel cynicism and apathy in our democracy. What if potential young voters and voters of color (VOC) respond by reaffirming the sentiment that their vote is unlikely to change this dynamic? This is especially a problem among first time voters that made strides last year in electing officials that share their interests. Note that these voters are historically marginalize in mid-term elections anyway and are more likely to get stuck in a long line or have their votes discarded altogether.  But along with that vulnerability, there is the real problem of intentional voter suppression.

For example, while voters under 30 were 21% of the electorate in Virginia in 2008 that number dropped to 10% in 2009. Also, voters waited an average of 23.6 minutes to vote in 2012 and their number didn’t match 2008.

This could be pivotal in a district of influence – Congressional district that is not necessarily majority minority but has enough diversity to impact the election. Like Virginia’s CD-4 which is close to 5% Latino, 31% African American, 2% Asian and President Obama garnered close to 50% of the vote.

That’s why it’s so important to invest in these communities early. These near-tragedies of generational subjugation can be avoided with a cross platform civic engagement program. You can shape the future of politics by taking compassionate measures and advancing the authentic voices of our movement. That process begins with embracing diversity. The greatest gift we can give to our future leaders is an opportunity to vote.

In the end, getting young people to engage in politics is like trying to push a boulder over a hill. When you have a strong progressive coalition to help, that boulder begins to move more quickly. For better or worse, young voters of color will move to the next phase during which the boulder will begin to charge down the hill. The impact of this rolling stone could be epic. Politically, you do not want to be on the other side of the boulder. #NJ123


Kirk Clay is Senior Advisor at PowerPAC


English: Vote for senator, by county. Results ...

By Kirk Clay

Will Young Voters of Color Amplify Their Voice in New Jersey 2013 Elections?

There are plenty of reasons for New Jersey’s young surging electorate to vote this year. They will have a chance

to elect New Jersey’s next U.S. Senator who will be their voice in D.C. on issues that matter to them.  Issues like financial aid for college, student loan debt and jobs. Also, they have the opportunity to elect the next Governor.

To succeed they must remember 1+2+3.  First, they need to vote on August 13th for the special primary election.  Second, they need to vote again for their candidate on the October 16th – United States Senate special election.  And three, they will claim victory when they vote on the November 5th gubernatorial election. One, two, three. August 13, October 16, November 5th.

If young people vote, they will be part of a historic game-changing election!  With the entry of candidates like Cory Booker, the political narrative has changed. Now their vote can reflect the changing demographics of New Jersey.

This year’s election also provides an opportunity for the rising progressive electorate to expand, deepen and strengthen its proven game-changing system which turns out record levels of voters of color (VOC). This will be a demonstration on how new media, politics, and old fashion “Get Out The Vote” tactics can impact voter turnout rates in communities of color. As established in 2012, this electorate has the power to elect candidates — including women and African Americans — to local offices, state capitals, and U.S. Senate.

So how will these voters affect this year’s election? Conservative candidates rely on low voter turnout to win in off year elections. The majority of their vote comes from precincts where they have outsized support from older white male voters. While voters under 30 were 17% of the electorate for New Jersey in 2008, that number dropped to 9% in 2009. The same is true for Voters of Color; they were 27% of the electorate in 2008 and only 25% in 2009. However, their vote share bounced back to 30% in 2010 and soared to 31% in 2012.

What’s the difference this year? Just like in the 2012 campaign, new tools for contacting progressive voters make it possible to expand the electoral map at critical points in the campaign. For example, there are close to 500,000 eligible Voters of Color in 13 important cites like Newark, Jersey City, Camden, and Atlantic City. These communities are heavily populated, under-resourced, and ripe for cross-platform civic engagement. Strategic use of 21st century data-driven technology in these and other cities will ignite key voters and increase turnout throughout the state.

In the end, we have to remind ourselves that all elections are about voter registration and turnout. Therefore, any effort that has success reaching unique pockets of voters will have an impact at the polls. These voters can easily overwhelm daily tracking polls by amplifying their voice on Election Day. All it will take is a combination of traditional civic engagement tactics combined with the use of various social media mediums to engage and expand the state’s Youth and People of Color electorate. This strategy of micro-targeting voters proved to be clutch in 2012 and it delivered a powerful victory for the progressive coalition.

Simply put, politicians will not survive in this new political landscape if they can’t connect with the rising electorate. Understanding the nature of cross-platform civic engagement is essential in today’s new political landscape. In the past, networking may have been a second tier concern but it has become the loadstone of demographic politics. Campaigns that don’t understand this will miss the mark. If they can’t intimately link to communities of color with authentic social media tools they will fall short. It’s as simple as New Jersey 1-2-3. #NJ123


Kirk Clay is Senior Advisor at PowerPAC