High Voter Turnout in Boston

November 7, 2012 -- Community Labor United

Thanks to extensive community mobilization by Partnership affiliate Community Labor United (CLU) and ally organizations, voter turnout in Boston this year rose 7% above 2008’s already high levels. These three profiles of CLU member groups explain why voter engagement grew—and why it may keep growing.

  1. “This year there was collaboration between the non-partisan Civic Engagement Initiative and the c3 state voter table,” says Mimi Ramos, executive director of New England United for Justice. “That got new organizations to the table that needed support. Organizations with lots of experience partnered with them – and saw new ways of integrating civic engagement work into their own organizing programs.” Access to VAN helped NEU4J’s own work, and a paid coordinator helped them think about the “engagement ladder” that pulls in newly registered and infrequent voters. 
  2. The Boston Workers’ Alliance packed several goals into this year’s voter engagement drive. With criminal records common in its Dorchester-Roxbury neighborhood, "We dispel the myth that former felons are barred from voting,” said executive director Aaron Tanaka. “The myth depresses voter turnout.” BWA also offered tangible direct services and built allegiance to the organization by passing out information on home weatherization programs while door-knocking. “We used voter mobilization moments to build a more ambitious city-based political agenda,” concluded Tanaka.
  3. For the Chinese Progressive Association, voter engagement is “long-term work that builds on prior struggles and victories,” said executive director Lydia Lowe. CPA’s constituency has historically been excluded from political representation and power over land use in Chinatown. But CPA persistently created a space for community decision-making and filled it with engaged residents. Protests against gentrification, an unofficial referendum on upscale development, and fights for a bilingual ballot “involved people on a grassroots level, not just mobilizing to vote but collectively deciding on demands and a political platform,” said Lowe. “It’s long-term involvement in leadership at the broadest level.”