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Faith-based Group Leads Grassroots GOTV Work in City

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact:  David Koppisch, POWER, 215-219-3950, dkoppisch@powerphiladelphia.org

Philadelphia – Tuesday, May 20, 2014 — Faith leaders from 40 congregations across the city — collectively known as POWER (Philadelphians Organized to Witness, Empower & Rebuild) — celebrated three months of intensive, systematic voter engagement and turn-out in key wards this evening.
POWER – which counts more than 25,000 individual members from 40 Catholic, Protestant, Jewish and Muslim congregations in every City Council district in the city — called and knocked on the doors of 45,000 “infrequent voters” — those with a less than a 50% voting propensity in primary elections.

Teams of volunteers in POWER congregations engaged these voters in conversations about Ballot Question #1 — which will help lift thousands of workers on city subcontracts out of poverty.  POWER generated nearly 5,000 commitments to vote from this pool of infrequent voters – a far higher attempt-to-contact ratio than expected and that most campaigns experience.

“It was pretty easy,” said Rev. Melanie DeBouse, pastor of Evangel Chapel in North Philadelphia and POWER leader.  “When I said I was a member of the interfaith group POWER and that we were fighting to raise wages for workers, people listened.  Many not only committed to support Ballot Question 1, they wanted to know how they can get involved,” added DeBouse.

While it is too early to tell if Ballot Question 1 has passed, POWER leaders are optimistic that their efforts helped boost overall turnout in key wards.  “We are only 40 congregations and we called and knocked on the doors of 45,000 voters who don’t normally vote in primary elections.  Think about the power in that.  We believe we have made a difference in this election” said Rev. Jarrett Kerbel, rector of St. Martin in the Field Episcopal Church, and board co-chair of POWER.
Indeed, among faith-based groups, POWER stood out this election in their pioneering of new voter engagement strategies.  Using sophisticated technologies — including the Voter Activation Network (VAN) database and a predictive dialer phone system — as well as old fashioned door knocking and congregational gatherings, POWER congregations targeted those who might not otherwise be engaged in a primary election and would not likely get to the polls if not for a phone call or a knock on the door.  POWER also experimented with decentralized voter engagement approaches — training each of its member congregations to form volunteer teams who created voter contact lists, organized phone banking and canvassing sessions and documented results in the VAN — as opposed to the “central command” approached used by many political campaigns.
“POWER is one of the best examples of faith-based groups bringing a pro-working family moral agenda to the ballot box” said Gordon Whitman, Deputy Director of the PICO National Network, the largest networks of faith-based community organizing groups in the country.  “Putting good measures on the ballot and turning people out to vote is where people of faith have to go if we are serious about achieving racial and economic justice in our cities and country,” added Whitman.
POWER sees its work on Ballot Question 1 as part of a national movement towards more just wage standards and a counter attack on growing inequality.  POWER intends to build on momentum of today’s victory to increase the civic engagement of those who are often left out of the political process.  For the coming year, POWER has its sights on a full, fair funding formula for the allocation of state education dollars and is looking to the fall election season to make another mark.
“We were not only interested in helping push Ballot Question #1 over the finish line — which will, if fully enforced, have direct impact on thousands of workers’ lives — we are also interested in changing how democracy operates in this city and in this state” said Rabbi Lauren Grabelle Herrmann, of Kol Tzedek Synagogue in West Philadelphia and a POWER leader.
“We believe that when those on the margins start engaging in the political process, with voting as a start, then we can start shifting the benefits of public policies more towards those disempowered communities” added Grabelle Herrmann who will help preside over a victory party tonight, May 20th, at 8:00pm , St. Malachy’s School Cafeteria, located in the school building attached to 1429 N. 11th Street, Philadelphia, PA  19122.
Call David Koppisch 215-219-3950 for more information.
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