Just weeks before the Presidential Election, Access had the opportunity to interview Tony Mack, Interim Director of the Mass. Voter Table about their voter engagement efforts throughout the state.
1. Why a Mass Voter Table, and why now?
The Mass Voter Table is long overdue. The voices of low income communities and communities of color are not heard in the political system, nor are they reflected in the policy decisions of the state. There are a number of groups in the state doing great community, issue and electoral organizing, but what has been missing is statewide coordination of nonpartisan organizing around elections in order to have a significant statewide impact. What we do is assist in the coordination piece. We have identified all of the precincts in the state with the highest percentages of low income people and people of color. We have also brought together all of the organizations that are doing this work to coordinate who is working where in order to have coverage of as many precincts as possible. We are collectively prioritizing, avoiding overlap and coordinating groups that are working in the same areas.
Another major impact that we are having is that we are raising the bar by sharing best practices, reporting on our progress to each other, setting collective goals and evaluating our work in order to improve as we grow. We are also helping newer groups by sharing the experience of more established groups and showing them how to do this work more effectively. Finally, we provide technical assistance and share our resources. The resource of most importance to our network is our database which allows groups to effectively target voters in their voter engagement work.
2. What will be the work of the table in the next year? What do you hope to accomplish? What strategies will you use?
Currently, all of the focus is on the upcoming election on November 6th. But we’re also thinking long term and using this election to build the infrastructure for ongoing collaborations around issue and electoral work. One of the things that I’ve learned a lot about is how to engage groups at very different levels. We are doing everything from maximizing the potential of the best groups to bringing groups into the coalition that have never done this work before. The strategies are very different for those two sets of groups and everything in between. We have all kinds of groups involved in our coalition building.
The overall goal is to increase the share of the vote that comes from low income communities and communities of color in Massachusetts. The broadest goal is to increase the power and voice of those communities within the decision making process in the state. We have also identified sub-goals that include building the infrastructure to continue working together, relationship-building, and providing the tools necessary to accomplish the Mass Voter Table goals that impact our communities.
3. How will you know if you have been successful?
On one level we will be able to see the numbers in the election turnout from our communities, and identify whether we have increased the share of the vote in those communities. We will measure our impact by reviewing public information that will show us our turnout, which we can compare to the rest of the state. The other way we will know is if we are able to continue building on this work with effective collaboration around issue advocacy. How well the communities are working and have performed will be measurable very concretely. We can quantify the effectiveness of how Mass Voter Table organizations are working together by determining whether there have been favorable policy changes in the interest of our communities.
4. How many voters will the Massachusetts Voter Table reach?
Massachusetts Voter Table is collaborating with 55 organizations to turnout voters across the state and to develop lasting leadership in communities. The 55 Voter Table partners have set individual goals for the number of voters they plan to reach out to and the number of attempted contacts (door-knocks, other face-to-face contacts, and phone-calls) they will make. In total, we estimate that we will be reaching out to approximately 175,000 voters and making approximately 500,000 attempted contacts.
5. What do you wish voters understood?
I wish that more voters understood that they have power in our democracy. Their power can be expressed through the electoral process by voting, by organizing their neighbors to vote, by being educated about the issues that are at stake in the election(s) as well as by holding elected officials accountable, after they have been elected, to the issues of concern to their communities.
I would encourage organizations to contact us if they have been or would like to be involved in this year’s election. The work that the Mass Voter Table is currently doing is a unique effort, as far as any of us know, to coordinate statewide in low income communities utilizing the electoral process. This is an opportunity that people should not miss. To learn more about the Mass Voter Table, please contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 617-905-7706.