With voting rights under attack across the Deep South, the Southern Poverty Law Center announced today that it will invest $100 million from its endowment over the next decade to support voter outreach and civic engagement organizations in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana and Mississippi.
The commitment represents a historic pledge of resources to multiracial democracy initiatives in the South and marks a more-than-threefold increase over the SPLC’s initial commitment of $30 million, pledged in 2020.
Through its Vote Your Voice initiative, the SPLC will partner with dozens of organizations to help sustain their crucial work during and in between major election cycles and support their long-term strategic planning for years to come.
“Our Vote Your Voice program began as a robust effort to increase voter registration and turnout, particularly in communities of color who would most benefit from a true inclusive democracy in the South,” said Margaret Huang, SPLC president and CEO.
“However, to ensure a government exists that truly is by the people and for the people, we must expand our efforts to push against the anti-democratic statements and actions of many state and local officials in the Deep South. We are thankful for the hard work of all of our grant partners; these organizations’ successes help to empower voters whose rights have been violated for too long.”
While voters turned out in record numbers in 2020, the work to ensure every voice matters continues. Voter suppression tactics are escalating, and the ease of voting varies widely by county, even within the same state.
Several states, including Florida and Georgia, are implementing new laws increasing barriers to the ballot that affect all voters, particularly low-propensity voters of color, voters who live outside major metro areas, returning citizens and – as evident in SPLC-filed litigation – engagement organizations.
The Vote Your Voice grants are administered in partnership with the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta.
“To paraphrase Amanda Gorman, we are looking to finish our unfinished democracy, and building an informed and engaged voting population is critical for ensuring a more just and equitable society,” said Frank Fernandez, president and CEO of the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta. “We are excited about this partnership because the strength of this financial commitment and SPLC’s advocacy helps us recognize that voter engagement reaches far beyond election cycles. It requires systemic change to ensure that everyone who wants to is able to participate in our democracy. It is important that we strengthen organizations that lift up the voices within our electorate that may have felt left out of the process in years past.”
The Vote Your Voice grants will:
- Establish year-round civic engagement activities updating communities on important state and local policy matters and the ways in which they can better engage lawmakers.
- Contribute toward expansion of the groups’ fundraising base through philanthropy networks to maximize their reach.
- Support efforts that train and help launch a new generation of political leaders in the South.
- Build voter engagement that ensures fairness in the 2030 redistricting process.
- Innovate – addressing future problems and using to-be-developed tactics and tools – to build additional capacity and trailblaze in work vital to democracy.
The Vote Your Voice program was created in 2020 with 12 grantees. Currently, the program funds 55 organizations and continues to contribute toward the long-term infrastructure of groups that are best suited to boost voter turnout and increase public awareness around issues that impact communities.
Here are some of the program’s highlights:
- Grant recipients’ efforts had a noticeable positive impact on the turnout rates of traditionally low-propensity voters of color and young voters, increasing turnout by 6% to 14%.
- Voter engagement efforts are focused on two groups: low-propensity voters who are members of the new American majority, skewing nonwhite and under 50, and voters outside of major metro areas, who have often been overlooked by many previous voter engagement efforts.
- Direct voter engagement like the kind by Vote Your Voice partner organizations has consistently proven to be one of the most effective ways to increase voter participation and education on fundamental rights in the United States. Among the program’s grantees, data demonstrated the greatest boost in turnout among voters under 30.
For more information and examples of current and past grantee organizations’ efforts across the Deep South, click here.
Photo at top: Voting booths are shown at Hermosa Beach City Hall in Hermosa Beach, California, during the California primary on February 5, 2008. (Credit: iStock)