National NOW Foundation Times  >> Fall 2007 >> Engaging Women Project

Engaging Women Project Effectively Makes Connections Between Voter Participation and Policy Change

Woman at rally with sign reading Women's Votes Count
NOW staff photo by Lisa Bennett

As we know, when women voters turn out in elections, they change the outcome. In November 2006, three new senators were elected with the women's vote: Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Jim Webb (D-Va.) and Claire McCaskell (D-Mo.), thus changing party control of the U. S. Senate.

With the 2008 elections on the horizon, NOW Foundation will focus on increasing women's political participation as part of Engaging Women, a project we piloted in Michigan, Arizona and Washington in 2006 with five other women's organizations.

Our core strategy was to turn issue advocates into civic educators and advocates for voter engagement, helping women's rights supporters to make the connections between voter participation and policy change. We already know that many of our members and supporters are opinion leaders in their communities, ideally positioned to deliver a motivational message to their peers.

Because they are already powerful influencers, they can move the concept of electoral involvement and civic participation further into the culture. This is particularly true of the teachers, social workers, nurses and others who are exemplars in the communities they serve.

We learned in our 2006 pilot that not all of our members are registered to vote, but those who are registered tend to vote regularly. So, the more women who are registered and informed about the electoral process and how it affects policies that concern them, the more impact women will have.

The 2006 project was a resounding success: Overall, the targets of this program voted at a 72.94% rate, while the aggregate turnout in the three states (Washington, Michigan, and Arizona ) was 52.89%.

Not surprisingly, those we contacted tended to vote more often than those that we didn't reach (76.31% to 61.16%), a more than 15% increase, and the increase was especially large for infrequent or first-time voters. Our contacts with these members clearly changed behavior.

We look forward to even more successful efforts in 2008, in an even larger number of states, assuming that we can raise the funding we need.

NOW Foundation's partners in Engaging Women 2008 are the Feminist Majority Foundation (Ms. Magazine and the Ms. Community), the Dolores Huerta Foundation and Organizer Institute, the National Congress of Black Women, National Council of Women's Organizations, and the American Association of University Women.