From defeating the corporate interests of Chevron and Wall Street, to raising the pay of low-wage workers, ACCE Action’s electoral work in 2014 led to huge victories across the state. Our work illustrates how early organizing to expose wealthy special interests, connected to neighborhood based issues results in major community wins.
Leading up to November 2014, we directly talked to more than 45,000 voters in low-income neighborhoods and communities of color– the very neighborhoods that traditionally have the lowest voter turnout.
- In Richmond, where Chevron and Wall Street spent more than $3 million to try to buy the City Council, we organized and defeated them on every single seat. Richmond voters elected our entire slate of candidates, all of whom took no money from Chevron or Wall Street.
Oakland low wage workers got a raise to $12.25 and paid sick days! And across the Bay, San Francisco workers are getting a raise, too, and by 2018 will be making $15/hr! Alameda County passed local transportation Measure BB for Better Buses and Better BART, as well as fixing up our local streets and roads. ACCE Action engaged 10,000 unlikely voters in Oakland and Alameda County paving the way to these victories.
- ACCE Action mobilized Latino voters in the long-ignored, low-income communities of West Chula Vista, which contributed to the election of Mary Salas, a progressive mayor who is a strong supporter of Immigrant Rights. Many of these residents also participated in the creation of council districts, a process which will help achieve stronger representation for their communities.
- With the passage of Prop 47, California will now lead the country in replacing over-incarceration with crime prevention and community based safety solutions. This is a step towards addressing the widespread criminalization of people of color that hurts our neighborhoods across the state. In both Los Angeles and San Diego, ACCE Action reached out to more than 20,000 voters about Prop 47!
Analysis: People Power Wins!
In an election cycle that left progressives across the country feeling discouraged, our work in California was a ray of hope. In Richmond, Oakland, and across the state, California voters showed that even when corporate-funded initiatives and candidates outspend their opponents as much as 20-1, well organized people’s campaigns to contact voters face-to-face can, and in fact will, win.
Our campaign analysis clearly demonstrated that the presence of the following were critical in delivering community based wins:
Starting early is critically important to neutralize massive corporate money. When corporate spending means that voters will be completely inundated by misleading messaging throughout election season, it is more important than ever that we begin contacting low-turnout voters six months or more before the election to educate them on the campaign issues. There are two periods here, simple non-partisan outreach to begin to ask voters to pledge to vote and provide them with information about what will be on the ballot to keep voters engaged through the entire election cycle, and sort through the massive advertising and mailers they will be inundated with leading up to the election.
Face-to-face contact influences voters more than advertising, mailers, and billboards combined. Especially in Richmond, but in races across the state, voters were hit by countless corporate-funded mailers. Yet, we found that when voters had an in-person conversation with a canvasser, that conversation held infinitely more weight than the piles of mailers they were collecting.
Engaging voters of color, is key to winning in close contests. While mainstream political strategy continues to emphasize contacting high-frequency (and often older, richer, and whiter) voters to lead to a win for a candidate or an initiative, these efforts show that investment in low-turnout voters (who tend to be younger, more people of color, and poorer) is indeed an effective strategy for political wins, and can lead to even more progressive victories.
Campaign managers need to be closely in touch with what voters are saying and responding to. Voters are responding to corporate greed messaging. In addition to in depth debriefs with canvass teams, our campaign leads across the state hit the doors with our canvassers and got on the phone with our phone bankers regularly to adjust raps as we moved forward. By hearing exactly what voters were responding to and saying, we were able to fine tune our strategy to maximum effectiveness. While often we are afraid to polarize voters against corporations that are major employers in their communities, we found that the public is angry at corporations and that messages about corporate accountability resonate strongly with voters.
- Field canvassers who know their turf and can relate to and resonate with the voters in that turf, are most effective at influencing and turning out voters. Drawing many of our canvassers from our core active membership base and their networks, we built teams who deeply knew the communities they were working in. In some programs, we had canvassers work the same turf on an ongoing basis to increase recognition by voters on Election Day to get them to the polls. We also targeted our canvassers to precincts that would be good matches demographically – sending black canvassers to majority black precincts, and bilingual Latino canvassers to majority Latino precincts. Additionally, we always utilize member volunteers as precinct captains to work in their own neighborhood where they have existing relationships to increase voter turnout. With small margins of victories in some races, the subtle differences in who our field canvassers were, made a difference in the results.