The Power of a Vote

The Power of a Vote

On November 8, we will take part in one of the hallmarks of our democracy—making our voices heard as “We the People.”  Along with selecting our next President, we will be asked to weigh in on local and state initiatives that will touch on aspects of our daily lives from education, housing, and healthcare to our justice system.  Yet, with so much at stake, we have to question whether our representative democracy will represent all of us.

In California, 1 out 4 eligible voters are not registered to vote. Statewide surveys find that younger, low-income, and Latino eligible adults have lower registration rates—voices that will not be heard but will certainly be impacted by decisions made in November. Across the nation, we have also seen laws putting up obstacles to reaching the ballot box. Two examples are the voter ID laws in Texas and North Carolina that our federal courts struck down recently as attempts at voter suppression. Indeed, the court concluded that North Carolina’s law “target(ed) African-Americans with almost surgical precision.”

As we head into the final weeks before the election, below are suggestions for ways to promote and protect the right to vote for our fellow citizens.

Organizations working in the Bay Area and across California

A grant from your donor advised fund can support the nonpartisan voter engagement and civic participation work of these organizations, which have also received support directly from The San Francisco Foundation.

  • Mobilize the Immigrant Vote (MIV) amplifies the voices of low-income immigrant and New American communities of color by harnessing their voting power to improve living conditions and achieve community and systems change across California. MIV’s expertise in electoral organizing informs and educates low-income communities of color on pressing policy issues, engages them in implementation, and mobilizes them to vote.
  • California Calls is a growing alliance of 31 grassroots, community-based organizations spanning urban, rural, and suburban counties across the state. They engage, educate, and mobilize new and infrequent voters with a focus on young people, communities of color, and low-income working class, to make California’s electorate reflect its diverse population. California Calls is leading a statewide effort to engage and turnout 1 million voters by 2018. At the end of last year, California Calls and its statewide affiliates launched the Million Voters Project to advance the transformation of California’s electorate.

Organizations working nationally

We encourage you to explore the organizations below that are working nationally, along with other partner organizations in the field.

  • Advancement Project is a multi-racial civil rights organization. Founded by a team of veteran civil rights lawyers, Advancement Project was created to develop and inspire community-based solutions based on the same legal analysis and public education campaigns that produced the landmark civil rights victories of earlier eras. It was among the groups that recently brought a successful lawsuit to overturn North Carolina’s voter suppression law.
  • Common Cause Education Fund, together with its sister organization, employ grassroots organizing, coalition building, research, public education, and other initiatives to promote citizen participation.
  • Project Vote is a national, nonpartisan organization whose mission is to build an electorate that accurately represents the diversity of our nation’s citizenry. Through advocacy, litigation, and technical assistance, Project Vote seeks to ensure that every eligible citizen is able to register, vote, and cast a ballot.

Please note that in accordance with IRS guidelines, a donor advised fund cannot make a grant to a 501(c)(4) social welfare organization for lobbying purposes. Often, we find donors are able to advance their goals by making a grant to a closely aligned 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

The San Francisco Foundation believes that economic and racial equity—to form a more perfect union—will only be possible if we expand opportunities for full political as well as economic engagement for our increasingly diverse Bay Area community and our nation.  Please contact with any questions or for additional recommendations.