First, we must point out: unprecedented work by California nonprofits in voter registration and mobilization paid off. California's voter turnout rate was close to the high 2008 levels, and turnout was remarkably high among "historically low voting populations."
The passage of Prop 30 -- temporary taxes on the wealthy to support education and other services -- is just one victory of the turnout. The nonprofit California Calls is just one example: they contacted 415,000 targeted voters, identifying 320,000 who supported Prop 30 and who they contacted again. Estimating that 55% of those "yes" voters went to the polls, they represented nearly 50% of the margin by which Prop 30 won.
And our own Vote with Your Mission campaign -- which 241 nonprofits joined, pledging to try to get 100% of their staff and volunteers to vote -- helped nonprofits begin to frame our sector as a voting block. In fact, nonprofits called on 5,535 staff and 45,308 volunteers to vote "with the values and mission that brings you to the nonprofit sector."
In short: we can get our staff, volunteers and constituents to the polls. Next we need to analyze what had the strongest impact.
2. Obama's re-election means that things won't change for nonprofits as much as they would have changed if Romney had won.
If Romney had won, there would be opposition at the top to causes traditionally associated with nonprofits: safety net funding, health care provision, immigration reform, environmental sustainability, and civil rights.
So not much has changed: that's the good news and the bad news. We can still expect cuts and problems. But hopefully we will be playing offensive rather than defensive. So things may get a little better, or maybe not, but at least we won't spend all our energy the next four years fighting to keep from losing ground. And as Dan McQuaid of OneOC told us, "We will still have to wrestle with the economy."
3. Prop 30 probably won't be felt by nonprofits as increases in funding. But we should be aware that its passage prevents big cuts that would have happened otherwise. As we and many other nonprofits pointed out in endorsing Proposition 30, temporarily increased taxes on those most able to pay them are not only necessary, but passing Prop 30 fends off draconian cuts that would have been automatically triggered without the anticipation of new revenue. The main positive of Prop 30 will be funding for K-14 education (great that it's K-14 and not just K-12) and balancing the state budget, much of which the California Budget Project points out will go to city and county governments. [CalNonprofits endorsed Proposition 30.]
4. And, by passing Prop 30, California voters sent a message to the legislature and to the rest of the nation: we are not blindly opposed to all tax increases. In fact, we want tax increases when we know they are needed. Let's give Jerry Brown and ourselves some credit here: we have made a small step away from the decades-long insistence that no one will ever vote for increased taxes.
5. Propositions in which nonprofits played crucial roles had mixed results:
5. Democrats (and Republicans) can no longer point to state "gridlock" as an excuse for not passing key legislation and making key appointments. Increases in the percentage of state senators and assembly members who are Democrats means a Democratic legislative "supermajority" -- enough to pass bills without needing Republican votes. (As a reference point, Governor Brown needed 3 Republican votes to pass the tax increase and couldn't get them -- that's why he put Proposition 30 the ballot).
The Democratic state agenda is Brown's agenda: raise taxes; build business in the state; focus on economic gains. We nonprofits must also hold them to our agendas.
Next issue of CalNonprofits E-News: lessons we can take away from the election.