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SPLC pledges $100 million to voter engagement programs

Through the Vote Your Voice grant, the organization has more than tripled its pledge for the next decade.

The logo of the Southern Poverty Law Center.

The Southern Poverty Law Center Monday announced a $100 million reinvestment from its endowment to its Vote Your Voice program over the next decade for non-partisan voter outreach, democracy advocacy and civic engagement efforts across the Deep South. That’s more than triple its initial pledge of $30 million in 2020.

“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, president and CEO of the SPLC. “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, SPLC officials say voter suppression tactics are escalating, and the ease to vote varies widely by county even within the same state. Several states, including Florida and Georgia, are implementing new laws that opponents say increase barriers to the ballot that affect all voters, particularly low-propensity voters of color, voters who live outside major metro areas, returning citizens and engagement organizations. 

“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 – administered through the Comemunity Foundation for Greater Atlanta – 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 towards expanding groups’ fundraising base through philanthropy networks and maximizing their reach;
  • Support efforts that train and help launch a new generation of political leaders and leading partner organizations in the South;
  • Build voter engagement that ensures a fairer 2030 redistricting process and outcomes; and
  • Innovate – addressing future problems and using to-be-developed tactics and tools – to build additional capacity and trailblaze in work vital to democracy.

Since its creation in 2020 and original 12 grantees, the Vote Your Voice program currently funds 55 organizations and continues to contribute towards the long-term infrastructure of groups that are best suited to boost voter turnout and increase public awareness around issues that impact communities: 

  • Grant recipients’ efforts had a noticeable positive impact on the turnout rates of traditionally low-propensity voters of color and young voters. 
  • Voter engagement efforts are focused on two groups: low-propensity voters who are members of the new American majority, skewing non-white 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. Amongst grantees, data demonstrated the greatest boost in turnout among voters under 30.
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