VOTERS OF COLOR WILL IMPACT NEW JERSEY’S SPECIAL PRIMARY

By Kirk Clay

Will Voters of Color Do It Again In 2013?

The potential historic victory of Cory Booker as a nominee for the U.S. Senate is a cause for celebration. At this hopeful moment we must remember our core objective –transform voter energy into a vehicle that changes the political balance of power. This can only happen if following Election Day we unite and continue to catalyze this emerging new majority coalition.

As PAC+ begins the final stretch of this primary election, we must continue encouraging New Jersey’s multiracial new majority to engage in the electoral process. We must stay committed to advancing our mission of expanding the electorate to include voters who remain on the political margins of our society.NJ Demo

This expansion will be accomplished by enhancing and broadening key components of our efforts — combining traditional civic engagement programs with 21st century demographic data and civic engagement technology.

The technology, strategy and staff put in place gives us the capacity to carry out a plan to train, educate, and mobilize a significant number of voters of color (VOC) in the primary. As a result, PAC+ is now in a position to help elect Cory Booker.

For PAC+ this epic moment presents both a historic opportunity as well as a significant responsibility. Created to build a voter program that is driven by New Jersey’s changing demographics, we felt compelled to make this chance for New Jersey to elect its first African American U.S. Senator our marque effort for 2013.

I remember when we first started this journey in 2011. I remember how challenging it was to excite New Jersey civic engagement organizations about demographic politics — something that is going to happen in the future but already impacting the political landscape. We started with a poll, evidence based data, and a voter file. After two years of hard work, election votes will be calculated and results evaluated.

It was like a roller coaster ride. By mid-June it appeared that there would be a turnout problem in eight New Jersey counties with historically low VOC turnout rates. According to internal data the counties of Atlantic, Bergen, Burlington, Camden, Gloucester, Middlesex, Passaic, and Salem were in danger of suffering low midsummer turnout rates.

For example, in Atlantic only 7,572 votes were cast in this year’s Democrat gubernatorial primary. Then Bergen, peculiar for north New Jersey, reported just 14,036 votes – far lower than the 16,197 from 2005. In Gloucester only 5,613 residents voted – almost 1,000 less than in 2005. In Middlesex we saw a 4,991 vote drop from 2005. All of those counties had turnout rates considerably better in 2005.

The numbers in Atlantic County were especially troubling because both the Democrat and Republican campaigns had spent a considerable amount of time engaging Jersey shore voters who were impacted by Hurricane Sandy. Clearly the multiple issues related to recovering from a disaster were a factor in the decreased effectiveness of conventional voter contact programs.
What very few realized is that Atlantic also underwent a political geographical transformation as well. In 2010, the county’s population increased by 8% with 16,000 inactive voters and 56,000 unregistered residents. Moreover voters of color make up 39% of the population.

In a few days, we will see the true value of an organized VOC electorate during a low turnout election. Recognizing the power that VOC have in pushing their candidate to the top, PAC+ was determined to follow the advice of Yale professor Don Green: “personal contact by a trusted messenger is the gold standard.”

Unlike most political organizations, PAC+ did not neglect this core principle in its efforts to reach VOC. It’s reflected in everything from our data collection strategies to cross-platform civic engagement and was utilized to strategically micro-target voters of color.

The power of this moment is the narrative which describes what most political experts know is true –if we strategically register, educate, and turnout VOC we can not only flip the outcomes of their specific neighborhoods and districts, but have major impact in deciding the next Mayor, U.S. Congressman, U.S. Senator and Governor.

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Kirk Clay is Senior Advisor at PowerPAC

YOUNG VOTERS OF COLOR HAVE THE ABILITY TO BREAK THIS CYCLE OF DYSFUNCTION

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

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Kirk Clay is Senior Advisor at PowerPAC

1+2+3 = SURGE, YOUNG VOTERS OF COLOR READY TO GO

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

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Kirk Clay is Senior Advisor at PowerPAC

ELECTION 2013: THE NEXT BOSTON MAYOR MAY BE A PERSON OF COLOR

African Meeting House, Smith Court, Boston

By Kirk Clay

Examining the Political Dynamics Surrounding Boston’s Future

Recently America experienced a tragedy which tested the spirit of the entire nation, especially one of our most historic cities–Boston. This is indeed a resilient city so there’s no doubt that this senseless act of violence will only serve as a catalyst for their renaissance. As our thoughts and prayers go out to the families affected by this terrible event, they are already showing signs of bouncing back.

As Boston grapples with the economic, cultural, and judicial effects this will have, it’s important to examine the political dynamics surrounding the future of the city. Remember that their population increased significantly in the last ten years. Yes, Boston grew 4.8% to 617,594 and it currently has over 85,000 “key” Voters of Color, but that only explains part of the story.

To understand Boston, you have to understand its historical role in shaping American politics. Their reputation for producing national leaders is a civic marvel and the stuff of political legends. Progressive Whites and People of Color (POC) are central to this history and have many stories to share about their “Pre-Civil War” Beacon Hill community. They will tell you with pride about the African Meeting House – the oldest surviving African American church edifice in the nation – where notables such as Fredrick Douglass and Sojourner Truth waged many early civil rights battles alongside progressive Whites.

Present-day, they will tell you how surreal it feels to watch President Obama, Attorney General Holder, Governor Patrick, and their current Mayor lead Boston in unity after the marathon bombing. Not to mention how amazing it must be to see their beloved city embrace these three people of color as American leaders. Even Bostonians living in neighborhoods like Roxbury and Dorchester- two majority minority neighborhoods – are surprised and excited about the changing face of politics. It’s truly a new day when there are multiple POC candidates running for Mayor and city council, all with a decent shot at victory.

Of course, it’s tricky to measure the political effect this set of events will have on the consciousness of the electorate–however there are signs. While “flash point” political impressions are hard to quantify, the fundamentals of this race are beginning to solidify:

  • There are over 600,000 people living in Boston – 17% Latino, 24% African American, and 9% Asian.
  • There will be at least four city council members in the race for Mayor – a crowded field leaving plenty of open council seats.
  • The 2009 Mayoral race recorded about 101,000 votes – a small universe of voters.
  • The 2011 at-large city council race recorded a little more than 170,000 votes.

There will be a lot of candidates running for Mayor and that may split the independent vote share at least 4 ways. It will be the Voter of Color who will likely make up the difference. There is a path to elect a Person of Color as Mayor with the right candidate, message, and a brilliant voter registration and turnout program.

Make no mistake, this is going to take a block by block community organizing effort but Bostonians have a history of voting for the candidate that represents their interests. They’ve been waiting with eager anticipation for the opportunity to vote for a candidate that has the courage to stand up for all Americans. Just as in Patrick’s governor’s race, the right candidate can tap into this powerful coalition of progressive Whites and Voters of Color.

The marathon tragedy has brought together this patriotic city like never before and the positive energy that Bostonians project may become the catalyst for positive change in their politics.

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Kirk Clay is Senior Advisor at PowerPAC

MEGA-MARCHERS SOON TO BE MEGA-VOTERS

English: March for America brings 200,000 peop...

By Kirk Clay

Election 2014 Will Be Next Demonstration For America’s Rising Electorate

The Latino community came out in extraordinary numbers for the “Comprehensive Immigration Reform March.” It was also remarkable to see so many progressive whites and People of Color (POC) exercising their First Amendment right.   As Reverend Joseph E. Lowery would say “You could almost see America expand the franchise before your eyes.”

People of all races and religions came from every corner of this nation to give their time, talent, and resources for a noble cause – helping their neighbor.  During the March’s aftermath, this same coalition will undoubtedly come together to push through commonsense, compassionate, and comprehensive immigration reform.  After that, they will stay together to fight future issues like disenfranchisement, voting rights retrogression, racial profiling, and discriminatory employment practices. Because midterm elections are influential in underlining national issues, 2014 will present a new opportunity for this rising electorate to vote their interest.

The month of March has affected Washington in a big way, bringing even more electoral momentum to an already high powered movement. As we saw in 2012, enthusiasm levels in communities of color tend to drive political activity at the state and local levels too. The next election will probably be a deliberate continuation of this trend. Just like the righteous issues of the past, immigration reform may be the flame that ignites massive voter registration and epic midterm turnout.

So who will benefit from this new political energy? It seems that the Democrats are in the best position at this point.  A strong Latino performance in 2012 has moved more than 12 Democrat swing seats to the safe column. Also, people of color (POC) helped to make 152 Democrat districts safer per districts of influence – Congressional districts that are not necessarily majority minority but have enough diversity to effect the election. This will free up resources for challenging a sizable portion of the GOP’s 30 swing seats and capturing the 17 seats needed to flip the House.

No one can be absolutely sure what will happen in November 2014 but it should be understood that the GOP will face a contextual impasse. Their party is dominated by Tea Party ideologues that are out of touch with the rest of America. As the latest Gallup poll shows:

  • 7-in-10 (69%) Americans would vote for a law to allow undocumented immigrants a chance to become U.S. citizens.
  • More than 7-in-10 (73%) Democrats and Democratic Leaners would vote for an earned path to citizenship.
  • 42% of Republicans and Republican Leaners would vote against an earned path to citizenship.

The bottom-line is that the GOP is now caught between deportation and amnesty – the wrong move could cost them the House. Take Nevada’s 3rd Congressional district where the demographics are 16% Latino, 6% African American, and 12% Asian. The President won this district with close to 50% of the vote and the GOP Congressman failed to get a clear majority of the vote. All it would take is one “47% style” comment or a “bad vote” and this may be his last term.

It’s ironic how obstructionist public policy created this political environment.  Meaning, the landscape is what it is today because of the policies embraced in the past.  Looking forward, it’s evident that this election will be about legislators channeling their patriotic spirit to understand more compassionately, share more generously, and legislate more unselfishly. It’s unmistakable that they have concentrated on obstruction too long and now it’s time to focus on improving the future quality of life for all Americans.

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Kirk Clay is Senior Advisor at PowerPAC