Project Vote

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Project Vote (or Voting for America, Inc.[1]) is a nonpartisan, nonprofit, 501(c)(3) organization. According to its website, Project vote provides "professional training, management, evaluation and technical services on a broad continuum of key issues related to voter engagement and participation in low-income and minority communities." It was founded in 1982 by Sandy Newman and its current executive director is Michael Slater, who has worked for Project Vote since 2004.[2][3][4]

Project Vote has three primary programs, the Voter Participation Program, the Election Administration Program, and the NVRA Implementation Program.

Voter Participation Program

According to Project Vote's official website, its Voter Participation Project "developing models, training community leaders, and providing advice and guidance to communities all over the country in order to engage citizens in issues that directly affect their communities. Our program encourages low- and moderate-income families to stand up and be counted by helping them register to vote, educating them on the issues, and encouraging them to vote." Primarily, the Voter Participation Project focuses on registering new voters and "getting out the vote" operations on Election Day.[5]

Its "work plan" includes the following:

  • Work with field partners already deeply rooted in low- and moderate-income and minority communities to implement the voter participation program, staffed by people from the communities we serve
  • Turn out new and occasional voters using email, text messaging, phones, mail, and in-person contacts
  • Train hundreds of precinct captains to register and mobilize their families, friends, and neighbors

In 2004, the Voter Participation Program claims to have registered approximately 1.2 million voters in 26 states, contacted 2.3 million voters with a message reminding them to vote on Election Day, and claims to have increased turnout by a margin of 24% in the precincts they chose to focus on.[5]

In 2006, the Voter Participation Program claims to have registered approximately 550,000 new voters in 26 states, and it claims to have set a record for number of new voters registered by a third party organization during a mid-year election cycle.

2008 Plan

Project Vote's Voter Participation Program had several goals for the 2008 Presidential election. It aims to register 1.2 million new voters across 26 key states, contact 2.3 million voters for a Get out the Vote effort, reach high school students through a Project Youth Vote initiative and reach 275,000 new voters in the American southwest.[5]

Election Administration Program

Project Vote's Election Administration Program is a program designed to ensure that elections are implemented properly. The EAP "encompasses every aspect of election implementation, from voter registration application design to voting booth placement to vote counting and everything in between."[6] Through the Election Administration Program, Project Vote documents election irregularities in select communities, and works closely with election officials to correct election irregularities as well as design and implement changes to the election process.[6]

NVRA Implementation Program

Project Vote's NVRA Implementation Program is a partnership between Project Vote, ACORN and Demos, "a national voting rights and election reform policy organization." The project assists state and local governments to implement the 1993 National Voter Rights Act.

Project Vote and ACORN

Project Vote has conducted voter registration drives as a third-party along with ACORN in 2007-2008.[7] These efforts have been the target of significant attention during the 2008 Presidential election.

Project Vote, one of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) "family of organizations" (according to ACORN founder Wade Rathke's blog)[8] often coordinates voter registration campaigns with local chapters of that community organization.[9][10][11] It has also worked with organizations such as Demos, National Voting Rights Institute, Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, Fair Elections Legal Network regarding election administration policy and voting rights, including enforcement of the National Voter Registration Act through research, litigation and technical assistance.

Testimony of former employee

In late October 2008, a former ACORN staffer, Anita MonCrief, testified in a Pennsylvania Circuit court that ACORN's quality-control efforts were "minimal or nonexistent" in deterring fradulent registrations and called the quality control policies of ACORN "largely window dressing."MonCrief also said during her testimony that ACORN was given lists of potential donors by several Democratic presidential campaigns, including that of Barack Obama, to troll for contributions in funding their voter registration efforts. During MonCrief's testimony, MonCrief further said that in November of 2007, ACORN's Project Vote development director Karyn Gillette told her she had direct contact with the Obama campaign and had obtained their donor lists. Ms. MonCrief also testified she was given a spreadsheet to use in cultivating Obama donors who had maxed out on donations to the candidate, but who could contribute to voter registration efforts. Project Vote calls the allegation "absolutely false."[12]

Concerns of shared funding

A recent New York times article explored the legality of the ACORN/Project Vote alliance, following a report filed by an attorney which alleges that Project Vote funds were shared with ACORN and used for political purposes. Project Vote hires the services of ACORN and non-ACORN affiliates as partners in their voter registration efforts. According to the article, as federally tax-exempt charity, Project Vote is subject to prohibitions on partisan political activity. ACORN, which is a nonprofit membership corporation under Louisiana law, though subject to federal taxation, is not bound by the same restrictions.[13]. Project Vote has responded stating that there is a written agreement between the two organizations that specifies that any shared funds are used only for nonpartisan purposes.[13]. So far, an investigation continues into whether the organizations were able to separate the funds adequately.

Concerned of shared leadership

Additonally, questions have surfaces about whether Project Vote has leadership independent of ACORN. According to the NYT article, Project Vote’s board was, at one time, made up entirely of Acorn staff members and Acorn members. An example would be Zach Pollett, formerly Project Vote’s executive director and also ACORN's political director, until July, when he relinquished the former title. Mr. Pollett continues to work as a consultant for Project Vote through another Acorn affiliate[13]. Some ACORN board members were not aware that they also served as board members of Project Vote.

Project Vote has convened a new board recently that, according to Project Vote, has greater independence.

Project Vote and allegations of voter registration fraud

Capital Research Center, a conservative group, alleged that Project Vote's voter mobilization efforts have frequent problems with fraud.[14]

2008

Missouri - The Republican National Committee has alleged that Project Vote employees registering voters in Missouri were committing voter registration fraud by signing up residents multiple times.[15]

2005

Virginia - The Virginia State Board of elections admonished Project Vote for carelessness in its voter registration collection process, stating that 83% of sampled registrations that were ultimately rejected by the election commission were submitted by Project Vote.[16]

2004

Michigan - Project Vote was one of three third party organizations suspected of attempting to register non-existent voters or forging applications for already registered voters.[16]

Ohio - Project Vote and ACORN submitted registration cards had the highest rate of errors in Cuyahoga County.[16]

Wisconsin - A Wisconsin District Attorney opened an investigation into Project Vote's operation after discovering that Project Vote had turned in voter registrations for people who said they were never contacted by the group. A Project Vote employee told a Wisconsin newspaper that he had never met many of the people he had registered to vote.[16]

1998

Arkansas - A contractor with Project Vote was arrested for falsifying 400 voter registration cards.[16]


Project Vote and Barack Obama

One of Project Vote's most successful voter registration drives was directed by U.S. Senator and presidential candidate Barack Obama in Chicago during 1992. Sandy Newman, a friend of Barack Obama's, recruited Obama to return to Chicago and head up a massive third-party voter registration effort on behalf of Project Vote. According to Barack Obama himself, the objective of the 1992 program was to organize and assist minority and other disenfranchised communities to "get out to vote."[17].

Obama recruited and helped train 700 deputy registrars, and organized a massive targeted media campaign aimed at getting minorities to vote.[18]. According to Chicago Magazine, "More than 150,000 new African-American voters were added to the city's rolls" during this drive.[18]. The successful effort was widely publicized in local Chicago media.

From Barack Obama's website:

In 1993, Crain’s Chicago wrote of Obama’s effort to register voters for Bill Clinton’s election, “Last year, Barack Obama galvanized Chicago’s political community, as no seasoned politico had before. The director of Illinois Project Vote orchestrated an unwieldy band of 10 staff members and 700 volunteers to the tune of 150,000 new voters for the general election — the highest number registered in a single local effect. ‘Under Barack’s leadership, we had the most successful, cost-effective and orderly voter registration drive I’ve ever been involved with,’ says Alderman Sam Burrell of the West Side’s 29th Ward.” [[ Crain’s Chicago Business, 9/27/93]



Close Daley Advisor: “Barack Ran This Superbly.” Chicago Magazine reported, “Some of Daley’s closest advisers are similarly impressed. “In its technical demands, a voter-registration drive is not unlike a mini-political campaign,” says John Schmidt, chairman of the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority and a fundraiser for Project Vote! “Barack ran this superbly. I have no doubt he could run an equally good political campaign if that’s what he decided to do next.”” [Chicago Magazine, 1/93]

The Wall Street Journal reported, “Voting experts at the Democratic National Committee point to surging registration in several big cities, such as Detroit, Chicago and Philadelphia. Most of that work has been done by the nonpartisan Project Vote, a voter participation organization based in Washington, D.C. Its director, Sandy Newman, says his group has helped to register 150,000 new voters, almost all of them black, in Pennsylvania; 110,000 in Chicago; 70,000 in Michigan; 40,000 in Ohio; and 160,000 (with the help of the New York Public Interest Research Group) in New York City. With the exception of New York, where Mr. Clinton holds a big lead, these are all battleground states, and most of these voters will cast their ballots for Mr. Clinton.” [Wall Street Journal, 10/30/92]

Chicago Sun Times Headline: “‘Project Vote’ Brings Power to the People.” The Chicago Sun-Times reported, “Project Vote, a collectivity of 10 church-based community organizations dedicated to black voter registration, is off and running. Project Vote is increasing its rolls at a 7,000-per-week clip. Just last Saturday it registered 2,000 during the Chicago Defender’s annual Bud Billiken Parade.” [Chicago Sun-Times, 8/11/92]

Barack Obama contends that his Project Vote activities were in no way affiliated with ACORN.[19]

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