To: Interested Parties
From: Minister Leslie Watson Malachi, Director of African American Religious Affairs, People For the American Way Foundation
Date: November 7, 2016
Re: The Critical Importance of Face-to-Face Outreach in 2016 African American Voter Engagement
While spending on political ads could break records this election cycle and campaigns are increasing relying on texting voters, less attention has been given to traditional, face-to-face voter contact through community efforts to get out the vote. This remains a proven, critically important method of engaging voters in the electoral process—and one that faith leaders in People For the American Way Foundation’s African American Ministers Leadership Council (AAMLC) have carried out in communities across the country this year.
Studies have found that increasing voter turnout depends on direct contact with voters through “a trusted messenger who can convey a message that resonates with the target voter’s lived experience.” These interactions greatly increase the likelihood that people will turn out to vote, and have been found to be more effective than other voter contact methods. This research underscores what the AAMLC national network already knew from its community organizing work: that knocking on doors and personally connecting with voters is a critical tool for engaging African American voters.
Though it has occurred largely outside of the spotlight of national media coverage, this vital work has been happening in cities and states across the country. For example, in the 2016 election cycle, AAMLC members have:
• Marched to the Board of Elections to cast early voting ballots in Cleveland, OH and Jacksonville, FL
• Canvassed throughout Ohio’s Cuyahoga County
• Led “Why Vote” forums at community colleges in Detroit, MI
• Led voter outreach at supermarkets in Miami, FL
• Organized community and church rallies in New Orleans, LA; Atlanta, GA; and Philadelphia, PA
• Led prayer meetings for seniors in Buffalo, NY and Minneapolis, MN
• Taken seniors to the polls throughout South Carolina
• Prepared and distributed informational materials in Meridian, MS
• Driven vans to the polls across the country
In addition to the recent engagement efforts, the AAMLC’s year-round education and training across the country ensures that voters know the date, time, and location of elections as well as the numbers to call for voting challenges and rides to the polls. This in-depth, community-led organizing makes a critical difference for early voting and on Election Day, and its significance should not be overlooked in 2016.