No, I am not ignoring COVID-19. I am finding ways while in lockdown to focus on something else. It seems so obvious to me that the best way to fight COVID-19 and future natural disasters, as well as human-made disasters, is to elect policymakers up and down the ballot who will pass policies that help the planet and the people and others who live on the planet.
Late last year I began thinking about how I could commemorate the centennial of women’s suffrage and the 55th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act. I reflected on past effective efforts to mobilize voting and wanted to spend this year encouraging as many people as possible to vote. I started talking with friends, many of whom are on the leadership team of a new initiative that I started – EveryWomanVote2020.org. We are recruiting nonpartisan Collaborating Partners, women groups and other nonprofits that want to reach out to their members and contacts with information about how to register and vote.
Back in 2006 and 2008, I coordinated ‘Engaging Women’ with nonpartisan women’s groups [’06] and ‘Peace Impact’ with peace groups [’08], to help them mobilize contacts to inspire them to register and vote. We provided voting histories of their members and contacts and helped them learn how to get them registered and voting. They were all shocked to learn that so many of their members had never even registered because all they do is work on policy issues, and they assumed members were voting. We provided voting data after the election so they could see how effective their efforts had been – and they were VERY effective. In 2008, the eight groups provided a total of 1,277,507 records, with only 621,466 confirmed registered voters. They registered 100,164 new voters from pre-project 2008 to post-election, representing a 15.1% increase in registration among participating organizations, compared with a national increase of 5.4% in 2008 over 2004. (Source: United States Election Project) Plus, they turned out voters at 74.2% while the national average was 61.7%. All participating organizations performed above the national average, and new voter turnout by these groups was significantly better than the national average.
I started calling this protocol “trusted sources.” If the leaders of organizations encourage and enable their members and contacts to register and vote, they are far more effective than if strangers suggest it. And if those contacts who are inspired to register and vote also reach out to their circles of friends, colleagues and family, they too become trusted sources. Furthermore, with COVID 19 defining our lives this year, our trusted sources approach is needed now more than ever because traditional registration methods of canvassing and tabling cannot be used. But also, notice that even when those methods were used, the trusted sources approach was far more effective.
Every Woman Vote 2020 is this year’s Trusted Sources model – it is being launched in June with almost 20 Collaborating Partners, an awesome team of polling experts, fundraisers, a website that is regularly updated with tools and virtual organizing ideas, links to films about the suffrage movement and more.
In 2018, a surprising 31.5% of women were not registered to vote representing approximately 37 million potential voters, and 45% of eligible women voters did not turn out to vote, representing approximately 53 million lost votes. We have our work cut out for us, but much is possible.
However November 3 turns out, I will wake up on November 4, knowing I did whatever I could to bring about the change we need by encouraging voters to change those who make the policies that govern our lives.
About Karen Mulhauser ’65
Karen Mulhauser is a graduate of the Antioch College Class of 1965.
Karen was the Executive Director of the National Abortion Rights Action League and before that was the Director of the Washington office of NARAL. She has served as the director two peace groups, and founded five other groups including a network of 1000 Washington, DC area women consulanations, and three voter participation groups. .Karen was a Senior Advisor in the Obama campaign, and managed the re-election campaigns of Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (Antioch College Class of 1960).