FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Wednesday, November 5, 2014
Philadelphia Contact: Margaret Ernst, 609-577-6430, firstname.lastname@example.org
National Contact: Kawana Lloyd, 202-544-8411, ext. 110 (office); 240-472-2860 (cell)
Faith Groups in Philadelphia and Nationwide Flex Political Muscle at Polls with Eyes on 2016
Emerging Religious Voting Bloc Turns-Out on Issues of Racial and Economic Justice, Signals a Growing Pro-working Family Moral Tide in American Politics
Philadelphia, PA — In an unpredictable political climate, people of faith working with the interfaith organization POWER (Philadelphians Organized to Witness, Empower and Rebuild) held more than 6,000 live person-to-person conversations about faith and voting as of 6PM on November 4, 2 hours before polls close in Philadelphia. POWER’s grassroots volunteer voter contact program highlighted the growing power of religious voters who are committed to racial and economic justice.
“Voting is one of our primary tools for fighting evil and greed in our society and our political systems,” said Terri Burgin, a POWER member who led voter engagement efforts at her church, St. Vincent-de-Paul Church in Germantown. “Whether it’s children in schools without nurses or people working jobs where they don’t make enough for bread, people’s lives are literally on the line in every election.”
As part of the Let My People Vote electoral program with the PICO National Network, the largest grassroots, faith-based organizing network in the country which held more than 500,000 live conversations in key states, POWER’s electoral program focused on the mobilization of faith voters and communities of color in Philadelphia around education funding. Pennsylvania is one of just three states without a formula for funding public education. POWER is committed to making sure that no matter who wins the elections at the legislative and gubernatorial level, a funding formula is passed in 2015 that provides high-needs school districts with sufficient resources through funding strategies that are not at the expense of already struggling communities.
More than 40 churches, mosques and synagogues that are members of POWER participated in phone banking and canvassing their neighborhoods, registering and turning out their members, and “Souls to the Polls” events. Over and over, volunteers delivered the message to voters that their lives, voices and votes matter. More than 80 percent of voters contacted were African-American, Latino or Asian-American voters who rarely vote in mid-term elections.
“When communities of color and people of faith vote regularly, we work to prevent there from being two classes of citizens in our state,” said Bishop Dwayne Royster, Executive Director of POWER. “We make sure that all of our children are getting the education they need to flourish, regardless of the zip code they were born in or the color of their skin. We make sure our state benefits from hearing great ideas from all of its people, even the most marginalized. We make sure that we’re treating all of our citizens like the children of God like we are.”
PICO organizations like POWER led efforts to pass two important ballot measures, winning earned sick time for almost one million workers in Massachusetts, and one of the most significant criminal justice reforms in a generation in California.
“The scale of PICO’s Let My People Vote program nationally shows that religious institutions that preach justice and redemption also have the ability to use sophisticated tools and targeting to move large numbers of people to the polls who might not otherwise vote,” said Kristee Paschall, PICO Network’s Political Director, “We’re sending a message to both parties that there is an emerging bloc of religious voters who vote their values on issues of immigration reform, reducing the number of people behind bars and raising wages and working conditions for working people.”
About POWER: POWER represents congregations from across the Philadelphia region, bringing people together across the lines of race, faith, income level and neighborhood — lines which have historically kept our city and state divided. POWER is committed to the work of bringing about justice here and now and seeks to exercise power in the public arena by strengthening and mobilizing our networks, so that the needs and priorities of all Philadelphians are reflected in the systems and policies that shape our city. POWER is nonpartisan and is not aligned explicitly or implicitly with any candidate or party. We do not endorse or support candidates for office. Learn more at http://www.powerphiladelphia.org.
About PICO National Network: PICO National Network is the largest grassroots, faith-based organizing network in the United States, working with 1,500 religious congregations in more than 200 cities and towns through its 45 local and state federations. PICO is non-partisan and does not endorse or support candidates for office. PICO urges people of faith to consult their faith traditions for guidance on specific policies and legislation. Learn more at www.piconetwork.org.