When we say “civic engagement,” we mean actively engaging Americans in the decision and policy-making processes that impact their lives, their communities, their states and their country.
The State Voices story begins in 2005. Important nonpartisan civic engagement work was happening in the states, but grassroots organizations were losing more than winning. Crucial issues and opportunities often fell through the cracks or were undertaken piecemeal because groups couldn’t tackle the work alone. Organizations were tired of coming together only around elections or cobbling together short-term campaigns on an issue-by-issue basis. New organizing technology was emerging that would change the way we engage with the public, but many organizations lacked the resources to obtain access, especially those working with underrepresented communities.
Facing these dilemmas, state and community leaders saw the need for something strong and lasting – a place where organizations could come together to share resources, communicate openly, build trust, engage in real field collaboration, and share their battles. They knew grassroots nonprofits could improve their effectiveness by working together, and they knew this sort of sophisticated collaboration would require a stable structure. The state table model was born.
By the end of 2007, tables were established in 11 states. With more springing up across the country, their leaders saw a need for an entity to connect and support them. State Voices was launched in 2008 to fill this role.
Since then, our network has been a part of unprecedented civic engagement victories. In 2012, Oregon Voice launched the New American Voters Project, helping to register more than 90% of Oregon’s new citizens to date. In 2013, the Colorado Civic Engagement Roundtable played a key role in the Colorado Voter Access and Modernized Elections Act being signed into law, making it easier for citizens across the state to cast their ballots. In 2013, Michigan Voice launched Detroit Voices a project that started in southwest Detroit, where four community-based organizations ran a coordinated voter outreach program to mobilize 20,000 predominantly low-income, Latino voters in precincts with the state’s historically lowest turnout.
Today, the State Voices national organization provides critical civic engagement tools, resources and support to state tables (read more about our programs here). State Voices works closely with partners in all fifty states and encompasses over 700 organizations in 20 state tables across the country.