Voting is essential to our system of democracy. But it is also a way to build power for change. Communities that vote in high numbers tend to get attention, get their voices heard, and get what they want from elected officials and city administrators that that make policies and delegate essential resources and services, which directly impact our communities. CCNE’s non-partisan voter engagement work goes beyond voter registration and turnout, to grassroots education and mobilizing around crucial issues faced by our urban communities.
Recognizing that inner-city communities are among the most disenfranchised and underserved, we see door-to-door civic engagement outreach is critical to shifting the balance of power and redressing income and racial inequalities. This type of neighborhood canvassing is a key component of our strategy to build a grassroots base of power to win positive change for working and out-of-work families in the urban centers of CT.
In 2008 we launched our first Community Voter Project by training high school interns to conduct non-partisan door-to-door issue-based surveys, voter registration and civic engagement outreach. The project empowered youth to educate their own neighbors about voting and: building power, having a voice in decision-making, understanding how government works, and becoming empowered to actively engage in the decision-making process. Through 1,000 in-depth conversations the youth had with people at their doors, the following issues emerged as the top concerns facing families and youth are*: Jobs & the Economy; Crime, Drugs, Violence, & Incarceration; Education; Healthcare; and Housing.
Since that time we have run several more successful Community Voter Projects in New Haven and Hartford. We engaged college students, unions, and community members and developed their capacity to lead non-partisan canvassing, become more involved in their community, and speak out on local issues. CVP canvassers utilized voter registration as a way of engaging in open-ended but purposeful conversations with residents about issues in their neighborhood. They also identified potential leaders at the doors, recruited them to volunteer with the CVP, and mobilized with them to fight for the things our communities need: access to quality affordable education, health care, housing, and to good jobs that sustain families and the economy.