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Nonprofit Makes Final Push To Boost Voter Turnout In City Heights

Mid-City CAN staff canvass a neighborhood to get out the vote, June 5, 2018.
Megan Burks
Mid-City CAN staff canvass a neighborhood to get out the vote, June 5, 2018.

During the 2014 primary, well under 5,000 City Heights residents came out to vote. It was one of the lowest turnout precincts in the county. Today, community nonprofit Mid-City CAN expects to top that — with new and unlikely voters alone.

Volunteers and staff with the group spent election day knocking on doors and making phone calls. They weren’t asking people to vote a certain way. Instead, they were just asking them to cast their ballots.

“We’re talking to people and engaging them and letting them know why it is important, as opposed to an electoral campaign that comes in and says, ‘Hey, vote for this candidate,’ and then they leave,” said Griselda Ramirez, who heads the effort. “We’re there from beginning to end, from when they register to vote to when they go to the polls.”

Nonprofit Makes Final Push To Boost Voter Turnout In City Heights

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Since April, Ramirez and her team have contacted thousands of City Heights residents in an effort to drive up the community’s voter turnout rate. From those contacts, they’ve identified 5,000 people who were unlikely to vote without a little push. It also registered 1,000 new voters.

Turnout is typically low in the neighborhood. Canvasser Victor Ponce, 24, said that’s because many families there are like his own.

“I’ve now started to vote. That’s not where I come from — my family background,” he said. “Nobody was ever encouraged to go out and vote. My mom doesn’t have the right to vote because she’s not a citizen.”

A similar, but much smaller, effort by the nonprofit in 2016 brought 1,000 out of the 1,500 unlikely voters it identified, a success rate of 67 percent.

Nonprofit Makes Final Push To Boost Voter Turnout In City Heights
Volunteers in City Heights spent election day knocking on doors and making phone calls. They weren’t asking people to vote a certain way. Instead, KPBS education reporter Megan Burks says they were just asking them to cast their ballots.

Since April, volunteers and staff with community nonprofit Mid-City CAN have contacted thousands of City Heights residents in an effort to drive up the community’s voter turnout rate. From those contacts, they’ve identified 5 thousand people who were unlikely to vote without a little push. That push came Tuesday. CHVOTE 1A Hello ma'am, how are you? Are you Jehovah’s Witnesses? Oh, no. We’re just going around the community to remind people that today’s voting day. Voter turnout is typically low in City Heights. Canvasser Victor Ponce says that’s because many families there are like his own. CHVOTE 1B I’ve now started to vote. That’s not where I come from, like, my family background. Nobody was ever encouraged to go out and vote. My mom doesn’t have the right to vote because she’s not a citizen. A similar, but much smaller effort by the nonprofit in 2016 brought a thousand unlikely voters to the polls. Megan Burks, KPBS News