CalNonprofits Articles

First, the bad news: In the 2016 election, less than 60% of Californians who were eligible to vote actually did. In fact, 35 other states had higher rates of voting by eligible voters than California did in the 2016 election.

Now, the good news: Earlier this week, the California Motor Voter program went into effect. As a result, when Californians apply for or renew their driver’s license or state ID card, they will be automatically registered to vote unless they opt out. CalNonprofits supported the legislation that created this program because it will lead to more Californians engaging in our democratic process and voting.

The Motor Voter program is one of several recent election reforms in California, including the ability for 16 and 17 year-olds to pre-register, something that over 100,000 California youth have already done! For a quick overview of recent reforms, we recommend the newly released “2018 Election Primer,” produced by the Future of California Elections. Also, if you serve communities in one of the five counties (Sacramento, Madera, Napa, Nevada, and San Mateo) piloting the Voter's Choice Act, the Secretary of State's office has printed flyers that clearly explain the voting changes under this pilot. If you'd like to help get the word out to your community, please send an email to: with your name, organization, mailing address, and the quantity desired.

So what does this mean for nonprofits?

Nonprofits have typically focused our electoral engagement activities on voter registration. Now, nonprofits can re-direct some of our efforts to the crucial work of educating communities on the issues at play in elections, and getting people out to vote. Through our “Vote With Your Mission Campaign,” CalNonprofits is working to engage and mobilize the staff, volunteers, donors, and clients connected to the more than 70,000 nonprofits in California. Given the high level of trust that communities have in their nonprofits, we are effective messengers about getting registered to vote and showing up on election day.

And, we know that nonprofit voter outreach works. A new report by Nonprofit VOTE found that people contacted by nonprofits about voting and elections were not only younger and more diverse, but they also had higher turnout on election day.

This is our first Vote With Your Mission update for 2018. We’ll be sharing additional resources in the coming months about how nonprofits are engaging with these new laws, for example by supporting Voter Choice Act pilots in their communities, and what resources are available to nonprofits who want to do more. We’re also supporting several bills related to voting during this legislative session (you can see them on our Legislation Tracker) and we’ll be sharing updates as those bills moves forward.

Does your nonprofit have plans to engage in voter registration or turn-out in 2018? We’d love to hear from you. What’s working? What’s not? What questions do you have or suggestions for your peers? Let us know!

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