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Integrated Voter Engagement

Integrated Voter Engagement

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Published by Patrick Lee
A guide to Integrated Voter Engagement by Manuel Pastor, Gihan Perera, and Madeline Wander
A guide to Integrated Voter Engagement by Manuel Pastor, Gihan Perera, and Madeline Wander

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Published by: Patrick Lee on May 23, 2013
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Traditionally, electoral organizing involves
episodic infusions of resources into candidate
or issue campaigns and employs tactics
like paid canvassing, phone calls, ads, and
mailers. Following elections, resources for
organizing, along with funder interest, tend to
evaporate, which hinders organizers’ ability
to sustain movements for change. Quite
often, the electoral effort grafts on top of, and
generally disrupts, existing efforts, with little
conversation or assessment of lasting impact—
what movement builders affectionately call

In 2009, the Funder Committee for Civic
Participation released a report that described
this relatively new concept in community
organizing known as Integrated Voter
Engagement (Winkelman and Malachowsky
2009). It highlighted four community
organizations (Ohio ACORN, Colorado
Progressive Coalition, Illinois Coalition for
Immigrant and Refugee Rights, and SCOPE in
California) that were beginning to incorporate
voter engagement as part of their overall
strategies for community change.

IVE efforts aim to raise voter turnout, of course,
but also to extend the organizing beyond one
electoral cycle. Elections are seen as one of
tools within an overall strategy to build
and shift power, and campaigns are seen as
a key arena to build an authentic base—one
that cuts across sectors and geographies,
and one that connects constituencies and
issues—that can then insert community voices
in broad decision-making processes. Elections
are crucial moments but not the totality of an
organization’s life.

The crux of IVE is the strategic intention
to leverage important political moments—
particularly, elections—to build a permanent
movement-building infrastructure that shifts
political debates, shapes public policy, and
moves voters at scale to affect long-term
change. By nurturing community contacts
before, during, and after elections and by
training community members to reach out
to their neighbors in a continuous way, IVE
represents a departure from traditional
electoral organizing by translating deep
leadership development into political power
and utilizing political resources to scale up
existing relationships and reach.

The good news is that IVE is not just a

theoretical model for organizing: early

investments have made on-the-ground
experiments possible (French American
Charitable Trust 2011; The New World
Foundation 2005). And even before the 2012
cycle, IVE actually seemed to be working.
According to the Funders’ Committee on Civic
Participation (2009), IVE efforts in different
parts of the country—particularly, in Colorado,

Ohio, Illinois, and California—had:

▪Increased voter registration and turnout;
▪Heightened awareness about election
▪Helped get more “unlikely voters” to the
▪Mitigated intimidation tactics to scare
voters away from the polls; and
▪Developed authentic community leaders.
Of course, IVE appears much easier to
execute on paper than it is in practice. IVE
can be a messy and, at times, tense process
(which we detail in our lessons from Florida
later in this report). Fortunately, organizers
pursuing IVE have a bank of best practices
from which to borrow. In reports capturing
early IVE experiments, some best practices

include: building long-term relationships,
cultural competency, voter fle acquisition and

management, and strategic communications
(FCCP and GCIR 2006; Winkelman and
Malachowsky 2009). And the Progressive
Technology Project has even provided a web-

IVE is useful
it not only
but because
it shapes
the social,
cultural, and
civic space

Engaging Voters, Scaling Power, Making Change


based Voter Techkit for doing IVE (see http://

In recent years, these best practices have
gotten, well, even “bester.” Improvements
in which might be called IVE 2.0 include
polling and message development, use of

technology to improve effciency and scale,

and clearer metrics and accountability
mechanisms. Moreover, movement builders
have gleaned and adapted these tools from
electoral craftwork and adapted them for long-
term, sustained work. While we discuss the
mechanics of these improvements below, our
main purpose is not to provide a longer list of
best practices but rather to argue that IVE is
useful because it not only impacts elections
but because it shapes the social, cultural, and
civic space between them.

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