Nonprofits are the Perfect Civic Engagement Partners to Get Out the Vote and Encourage Census Participation

OpEd by Marnie Taylor, President and CEO

This year is an important election year in Oklahoma. We will elect a new governor, as well as new legislators, Congressmen, commissioners, assessors and everything in between. This is not a “business-as-usual” mid-term election. While nonprofits do not endorse candidates or engage in campaigning, we play an essential role in the electoral process.

According to Nonprofit VOTE, nonprofits “have inherent assets that make them strong and capable proponents of voter and citizen participation.” In America, the more than one million registered charitable nonprofits employ more than 13.5 million people and rely on 61 million volunteers. “Nonprofits represent democracy’s highest ideals of public service, active citizenship and commitment to a better society.”

Nonprofits can engage. We are everywhere. We have access to communities that are underrepresented in the electoral process. Nonprofits can and should be encouraging our staff, board members and volunteers to register to vote and get to the polls. Voters appreciate and trust nonprofits because of our nonpartisan approach to civic engagement. While we remain nonpartisan, this doesn’t mean we are “nonparticipation.”

Beyond educating voters about our missions and our outcomes, we should be getting people to become active participants in our democratic process through voting. I encourage nonprofits to ensure their staff, volunteers, board members and constituents know primary and general election dates. Furthermore, ensure participation by allowing your employees the time off to vote. We have a written policy at the Center for Nonprofits that gives our employees two hours to make it to the polls. And I love to see my staff wearing their “I voted!” stickers.

The 2018 elections will be important for Oklahoma. On its heels will also be the 2020 Census. We are encouraging nonprofits to begin educating themselves on the importance of this event. Not only does the Census determine Congressional representation, it also helps determine funding that comes to Oklahoma to help our citizens.

Just as with voting, nonprofits have access to underrepresented communities that have historically not participated in the Census. Nonprofits can educate constituencies about the importance of being counted.  So this year, I encourage nonprofits to help get out the vote and begin educating Oklahoma citizens about the elections and the upcoming 2020 Census.

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Register to vote for primaries by June 1 // Primary Elections in Oklahoma are June 26

Register to vote for the general election by October 10 // General Elections in Oklahoma are November 6

Visit www.ok.gov for more details on all election-related dates

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