OAKLAND, CA - If tonight’s results spell defeat for Proposition 23, as recent polls suggest, much credit may belong to a massive grassroots effort to educate voters of color about Propositions 23 and 26 through door-knocking, phone calls, direct mail, radio ads and ethnic media outreach. The campaign was mounted by Communities United Against the Dirty Energy Proposition, a coalition of over 130 organizations representing low-income communities and people of color in California.
Early polling showed that many of California’s ethnic minority communities were more supportive of Prop. 23 than white voters, but polls released in late October showed a marked shift against the initiative. Less polling has been done about Prop. 26, but Communities United incorporated strong anti-26 messages into its efforts during the campaign’s final weeks.
“We knew from the start that our communities could be the key swing votes,” said Communities United campaign manager Ian Kim. “We mounted a massive effort to educate Californians of color, and all signs are that it made a big difference.” Among other things, Communities United:
Raised over $1.1 million dollars specifically to reach voters of color and low-income communities.
Had over 250,000 one-on-one conversations with voters through door-knocking and phone-banking.
Sent direct mail pieces in English, Spanish and Chinese to over 280,000 households of color.
Blanketed the airwaves of Spanish language radio, particularly in southern California, with a $200,000 ad campaign in the last two weeks of the campaign. The spots featured the voices of Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and human rights legend Dolores Huerta.
Enlisted Huerta and two other human rights legends, Van Jones and Pam Tau Lee, as high-profile endorsers.
Mounted high-visibility events, including a dramatic protest at Tesoro’s Wilmington refinery that gave local residents affected by the pollution from the Tesoro and Valero refineries a media platform to address the harm Prop. 23 would do to their communities.
Inspired a solar-powered hip-hop tour, The Clean Energy Tour, that took a message of clean energy and voter empowerment to college campuses around California.
Created a popular hip-hop No on 23 anthem that helped generate buzz for the campaign.
The coalition had strong leadership from an executive committee that consisted of the Asian Pacific Environmental Network, California Environmental Justice Alliance, Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, PowerPAC, and The Greenlining Institute.