Groups try to mobilize ‘unlikely’ voters for midterm elections

Education levels and interest in politics are the biggest drivers of voter turnout, which is much lower during midterm elections. So, leaders in some of Philadelphia’s faith-based organizations are trying to get out the vote among certain “unlikely” voters  in low-income and predominantly minority neighborhoods.


Cean James is the pastor at Grace Christian Fellowship in Southwest Philadelphia. He’s committed to getting 100 people who haven’t voted in the last couple midterm elections as a part of the nationwide campaign “Let My People Vote.” In Philadelphia, that effort is led by Philadelphians Organized to Witness, Empower and Rebuild (POWER), a faith-based social change organization. That group wants to get 7,000 unlikely voters to the polls on Tuesday with phone and door-to-door canvassing.

James said he’s talking about one issue in particular mobilize people in his neighborhood — education.

“Tilden Middle School, Morton Elementary School and Bartram High School have been particularly affected by the cuts to education here in the city of Philadelphia,” said James. He said the effect of the cuts has been so striking that “all you need to say to people is take a look at your public schools.”

Professor Kay Schlozman, who researches civic participation at Boston College says turnout of minority and low-income voters tend to drop off disproportionately during a midterm election.

But even in the age of micro-targeting voters, she said low-tech efforts like those of POWER work too. “There’s been some field experiments that literature doesn’t help, but talking to people does,” said Schlozman.

She says people are more likely to vote in presidential election years because the candidates, and the issues, are more clearly defined.

Nationally, only about 20 percent of voters in the 2010 midterm election were minorities and only 38 percent of registered voters exercised that right.

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