2020 Voter Engagement Campaign

POST ELECTION REPORT

Executive Summary

CASA’s power building model combines grassroots community organizing and civic engagement with direct services and advocacy in working class Latinx and immigrant communities. At CASA, our civic engagement work is an extension of our year round organizing and leadership development work. Since 2016, our members have felt the brunt of attacks on immigrant communities, withholding of critical aid to Puerto Rico, denial of vital COVID relief funding to some of the most vulnerable communities, and repeated and purposeful efforts to undercount, underserve, and otherwise dampen the power of our communities. Despite these circumstances, our members organized. They reached out to their friends, family, and neighbors in person, by phone, whatsapp, and on zoom. Thanks to their efforts, Latinx communities showed up on election day -voting in record numbers despite the obstacles deliberately laid in front of them. CASA was proud to play a critical part in this demonstration of Latinx voting power, and we are excited to continue organizing and building power in 2021.

Nonpartisan Civic Engagement: a long term organizing process

At CASA, the work leading up to election day began a full year prior with the launch of our census program. As CASA launched field programs across our footprint, including five expansion counties in PA, we had thousands of conversations about being counted and making our voices heard as a community to fight for the things our families need to thrive. Starting in November, 2019, we invested training and leadership development resources in CASA member leaders and built an army of “promotores”, to talk about civic engagement -the census, voting, and redistricting.
By the time the census campaign wound down in May of 2020, this team of amazing member leaders, from first generation Latinx college students to Puerto Rican grandmothers, were ready to pivot into engaging potential voters in conversations about the upcoming elections. Having this trained and experienced team already on board as the pandemic hit made our campaign more successful than if we had been starting from scratch in June or July.
A critical part of organizing is listening, so our campaign began with a post-primary survey of Latinx voters to learn about their experience voting in the primary. Of 446 Latinx voters surveyed, 30% voted by mail, 30% voted in person, and the remaining 40% did not vote in the primary. Both in person and mail voters rated the experience as easy and secure (8.4 and 8.2/10 respectively). The biggest learning from the survey came from voters who did not successfully vote in the primary, many of whom had applied to vote by mail but did not receive a ballot in time, and others who were unable to locate their polling place on election day after it had been consolidated and did not vote as a result. We applied these learnings to both our program design and our election advocacy during the later phases of the campaign and in our education materials about voting by mail. We believe that organizing works – and that having more in depth conversations with voters about issues they care about will make them more likely to show up on election day and take action in other ways. We also recognize that in the middle of a pandemic when so many are suffering, sometimes urgent needs like health care, food, and housing need to be addressed before a voter can really even think about voting. We were thrilled to be able to test these theories with research partners at the Analyst Institute and The Movement Cooperative, and look forward to those results later this winter.

We never stopped engaging voters -even after election day. We invited voters to join us in defending democracy at election defense rallies in Harrisburg immediately following election day and a mass member meeting on November 22nd, where we engaged them around issue campaigns like climate justice, immigration, and economic justice. We look forward to continuing to engage with our members and voters across our footprint in redistricting efforts in both Pennsylvania and Virginia.

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CASA is the foremost Latino and immigrant organization in the mid-Atlantic region and a national leader in supporting immigrant families and ensuring that all individuals have the core support necessary for full participation in society.
CASA was founded in 1985 and its mission is to create a more just society by building power and improving the quality of life in working class and immigrant communities. CASA’s 100,000 lifetime members are 100% immigrant, Latino, and working class people whose commitment, courage, and solidarity has helped CASA grow to where it is today.
Our vision is for a future in which we stand in our own power, our families live free from discrimination and fear, and our diverse communities thrive as we work with our partners to achieve full human rights for all. As CASA has expanded to new geographies over the past several years, the organization has emerged as a regional immigrant powerhouse with deep roots in dozens of local communities.

Program Snapshot

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Where We Worked

In Pennsylvania, our virtual phone and text programs targeted Latinx voters in Dauphin, Lancaster, York, Montgomery, Chester, Adams, Delaware, Lebanon, Cumberland, and Franklin Counties, in conjunction with the statewide coordinated campaign with Keystone Votes and statewide partners. Our field voter registration, GOTV, and election day programs focused on Latinx voters in our core five counties of Chester, Montgomery, York, Lancaster, and Dauphin. We emphasized targeting Puerto Rican households, first time voters, and low propensity voters. In Virginia, our program was coordinated with the Virginia Civic Engagement Table and targeted Latinx voters in Fairfax and Prince William Counties.

"Once again, I feel happy that the Latinx community is showing up with our vote in this presidential election. This is my third consecutive time voting. It fills me with joy to see people excited to exercise their right to vote for the reconstruction of a nation that for four years has been battered and mistreated. Our vote is powerful."

- Tomas Berrios, Virginia Voter

Our Work

CASA applied this multilayered tactical approach, combining phone, text, field, relational, and digital tactics, to six key phases within the campaign:

VOTER EDUCATION

This work included two critical components: education about how elections work in the US and education about the changes to election processes (including voting by mail) taking effect for the first time in 2020 due to the Act 77 implementation and emergency modifications in response to the pandemic. For new Puerto Rican arrivals and naturalized citizens, the procedures of engaging with the civic and electoral processes function differently in Pennsylvania than what they are used to. Voter education on how to participate, which political offices they vote for and what those office holders do, and on the policy-making process at all levels of government are essential for this work. Education around new voting systems, including applying for and turning in a mail ballot and Know Your Rights education for all voters, was especially critical this year with so many changes and so little spanish language outreach done by counties and state governments.

VOTER REGISTRATION

Historically, a massive voter registration gap has existed among the Latino electorate in Pennsylvania and Virginia, and CASA is dedicated to closing that gap. For example, in 2018, only 41% of eligible Hispanic voters in Pennsylvania were registered to vote and only 49% in Virginia – this is not only a critical gap compared to their respective state averages for all populations We never stopped engaging voters – even after election day. We invited voters to join us in defending democracy at election defense rallies in Harrisburg immediately following election day and a mass member meeting on November 22nd, where we engaged them around issue campaigns like climate justice, immigration, and economic justice. We look forward to continuing to engage with our members and voters across our footprint in redistricting efforts in both Pennsylvania and Virginia. “Once again, I feel happy that the Latinx community is showing up with our vote in this presidential election. This is my third consecutive time voting. It fills me with joy to see people excited to exercise their right to vote for the reconstruction of a nation that for four years has been battered and mistreated. Our vote is powerful.” -Tomas Berrios, Virginia Voter (68% and 72%), but also to Hispanic voters nationwide (54%).

VOTE BY EMAIL

In light of the covid-19 pandemic and the deliberate and widespread misinformation campaign concerning vote by mail, CASA was dedicated to helping our community take full advantage of new VBM possibilities in the Commonwealth as a result of Act 77 (comparatively, VA has had no excuse absentee voting for far longer). CASA has not only been contacting potential voters to help guide them through the VBM process and answer questions, but has also deployed digital messaging to help counter misinformation about the safety and efficacy of VBM. CASA utilized phone, text, and digital outreach to emphasize to our community — especially the thousands of recently arrived Puerto Rican residents who came to PA since Hurricane Maria in 2018 — the importance of voting, and to help them through the registration process. While unfortunately our voter registration work was forced to begin virtually, for the last three weeks of the campaign our promotores were able to go into the field to conduct socially distant site-based voter registration using the Rock the Vote tablet application. Additionally, we worked with the state and county election authorities to ensure a smooth and equitable implementation of the mail-in ballot process. Finally we worked in cooperation with the Keystone Votes and Election Protection coalitions in a ‘watchdog’ capacity towards those same ends. Keystone Votes and Election Protection coalitions in a ‘watchdog’ capacity towards those same ends.

GOTV

Whether by-mail or in person, CASA did the work to ensure folks turned in their ballots, got to the polls and had their votes counted. After an initial “make a plan to vote” pass, this work took a bifurcated approach – first targeting voters who had signed up to Vote by Mail to ensure that they mailed or dropped off their ballots, and a final GOTV push for those who had NOT signed up to vote by mail to ensure they had a plan for voting on election day including their updated polling location. This work was complemented by high visibility “street fair” style events in Harrisburg, York, Norristown, Kennett Square, and Lancaster, all of which took place during the “golden window” period in which voter registration and early voting were available at the same time. These festive “caravanas” events raised additional awareness and encouraged people to vote early.

VOTER PROTECTION

With so much doubt, misinformation, and political machinations surrounding voting by mail in Pennsylvania, Virginia, and across the country, ensuring voters were able to safely cast their ballots and be assured that their votes were counted was more important than ever. Voter protection included working with local election commissions and the state authorities to try to get as many dropbox locations as possible, ensuring that information on voting by mail was clear and reflected the reality on the ground vis a vis USPS and state elections authorities, polling place watchdog work for intimidation and irregularities, and post election review for voting irregularities. This work was particularly critical in Pennsylvania, as the Department of State and county election officials grappled with implementing voting changes included in Act 77 for the first time in a presidential election year with the added wrinkle of a pandemic. CASA is a long term active member of the Voting Rights workgroup of the Keystone Votes coalition staffed by PA Voice as well as the Election Protection coalition, staffed by Common Cause PA, and participated in ongoing advocacy with both the department of state and local county elections administrators in our area. Within those areas, CASA played a critical role as a consistent voice advocating for improved language access, particularly with the implementation of vote by mail including advocating to make online vote by mail applications available in spanish, which was critical to our success in dramatically increasing the vote by mail sign up rate among Latinx voters between the primary (when the online application was not available in spanish) and the general election cycle.

As election day approached, CASA played a primary role representing not only our organization but the statewide coalitions as the primary face of the statewide efforts in our local jurisdictions, particularly in Lancaster and York, where CASA staff attended election commission meetings, met and communicated with election administrators regularly, and conducted public advocacy to maximize voter access, particularly for voters for whom English was a second language.

ELECTION DAY

On election day itself, CASA mobilized 486 “voter guardians, “ in conjunction with the statewide Election protection coalition, with support from Keystone Counts and the Center for Popular Democracy. Voter guardians were trained not only in the basics of voting rights and poll monitoring, but also in de-escalation tactics and strategies for identifying and de escalating potential voter intimidation. Voter guardians were supported by central CASA teams in each county who provided logistical and legal support, volunteer interpreters, and volunteers to drive voters to polls. As remote volunteers were conducting election day phone and text outreach and identifying voter needs or possible election protection flags, teams on the ground were able to respond and provide support in real time, in addition to coordination with the statewide Election Protection coalition.
CASA Voter guardians responded to over 100 potential voter protection issues on election day, and were able to resolve the vast majority of cases with the ultimate result of a voter being able to cast their ballot, yielding thousands of “thank yous” from voters, local elected officials, and poll workers for their support in helping the election process run smoothly. Ultimately in one polling location where voters were reporting repeated incidents of voter intimidation and lack of language access, CASA worked with the Election Protection coalition to take legal action against York County. While the judge in the case ultimately dismissed the charges, the case brought to light the critical need for consistent application of language access laws and guidelines at all polling locations and the rapidly changing demographics of parts of York county.

POST-ELECTION PROTECTION

CASA’s voter protection work continued after election day as we immediately launched efforts to ensure that every vote was counted in conjunction with PA Voice, the Election protection coalition, and the statewide and nationalFightback tables’ Count Every Vote campaign effort. We joined small gatherings on November 4th in Lancaster and Harrisburg to lift this message, and anchored larger efforts on November 5th and November 7th in Harrisburg to continue to create the public space for democracy to work as it is supposed to, calling on election officials to count every vote and not be rushed or bullied by increasing national pressure to produce final results. As counties identified numbers of voters whose votes had been legally challenged, either because they met a single criteria (like voting provisionally at a polling location after having signed up to vote by mail but not turned in a ballot) or a specific issue with a ballot, CASA jumped in as the local voting rights partner for Keystone Votes in Montgomery, Dauphin, York, Lebanon,and Lancaster counties to ensure that voters were aware that their votes had been challenged and inform the of the hearing process conducted by each county and steps that they could take to participate in that hearing process. Voters whose voters were challenged were overwhelmingly grateful to CASA for alerting them and providing this information, and hundreds of voters called, emailed and showed up at their local election commissions to defend their votes. As a result of this work, challenges to over 4000 ballots were dismissed and every one of these counties reported their final counts to the state ahead of the November 23rd deadline, enabling the state to certify the election results on time.

Our Program - By the numbers

PROGRAM HIGHLIGHTS

OUTREACH ACTIVITIES AND ENGAGEMENT

DIGITAL COMMUNICATIONS

TRADITIONAL MEDIA - SPANISH LANGUAGE

The work continues

CASA members are in the fight of their lives – the work of building power and organizing our community must continue regardless of the administration in power or the results of an election. The needs, demands, and dreams of our community will only be realized through organized, strategic, and sustained pressure against institutional and systemic inequality, racism and xenophobia, and in favor of an agenda that recognizes, enhances and celebrates our inherent dignity, rights, and power. We’re extremely proud of our work during this cycle, but we don’t have time to rest now – immediate and critical priorities for our members are right around the corner:

LEARNING, IMPROVING, GROWING

We know that organizing works, but understanding how, why, and when we’re effective at engaging our community makes us stronger as a movement. We will continue to analyze and understand our work and how we can continue to improve on the work we’ve done this cycle, and we’ll have significant help from our partners at Analyst Institute and The Movement Cooperative. During the course of our work this election cycle, CASA conducted 2 experiments to study the impact of different organizing tactics on mobilizing voters to take action and the results of these studies, combined with more robust voter turnout data and CASA’s own internal analysis will provide ample ground for understanding and improving our work.

FAIR REDISTRICTING

A significant part of ensuring that the immigrant and working class community have their voices represented in government is ensuring that political districts are drawn fairly and equitably. As Pennsylvania and Virginia prepare to re-draw district maps in 2021, the work must begin immediately to engage our community in the process. This work must begin early with educating the community about the process and how they can get involved, and will continue as we work with our partners throughout the Commonwealth to engage in collective planning and unity mapping.

ONGOING CIVIC ENGAGEMENT

Regardless of which candidate wins office in any given election, CASA’s members know that the real victories are decided after election day. Winning justice for our community means translating our members challenges and goals into tangible policy victories. CASA’s deep commitment to democracy means our members decide those priorities, and in November, CASA’s annual member gathering will set our policy priorities for 2021. CASA will release more information on these goals before the new year, but what we know now is that our member’s ongoing priorities are immediate, inclusive, and equitable pandemic recovery at the scale of the crisis, comprehensive federal immigration reform and the concordant state and local policies that allow immigrants to live without fear in their communities and in our country, and a just transition to a sustainable green economy.
Throughout the year, it will be critical that we conduct ongoing organizing and community outreach to the thousands of new warm contacts we’ve made during this campaign. In Virginia, this means hiring additional organizing staff in Prince William County and in the Hampton Roads region to support our member growth there. In Pennsylvania, this means laying permanent foundations in our emerging Montgomery County committee by basing a permanent organizer in Norristown. In Maryland, we will build permanent organizing into Howard County to organize the growing immigrant and Latino population in that area. And across our footprint, we plan to deepen our member leadership development work, including an intentional focus on civic engagement as a strategy toward activating our collective power to win on our issues.

Thank you

To our courageous and tireless members, our talented and dedicated team, the thousands of generous, passionate supporters who made this program possible financially, and the over 1,000 allies who volunteered their time and talent to support this work, thank you. Now more than ever, this is a time for solidarity. Thank you for standing shoulder to shoulder for justice and democracy.