Monday, April 28, 2008

PLAN's Civic Engagement Initiative marks milestone as Reno's "Millennials" hit the pavement

This past weekend marked the midpoint of the Progressive Leadership Alliance's Civic Engagement Initiative and the milestone was noted by a double event. Volunteers from UNR and TMCC High School completed canvassing Voter Precinct 1018 in Reno on Saturday. Volunteers gathered at the PLAN offices at 821 Riverside in Reno at 9am and canvassed until 3pm. The following morning Reno's "Millennials," hit the pavement once again during the Fiesta at Wells Avenue. Braving the heat and working the crowds. One of the volunteers, Sydney Brown, a senior at TMCC High School, explained that she has been participating and volunteering in our political and election process even before she was old enough to vote. She believes it is the responsibility of every citizen to be informed and involved. Over the weekend Sydney registered 3 new voters and collected 10 pledges from registered voters that they were going to participate in November's election. Volunteers were working the crowds and enjoying the festivities from 11:30am until 3pm on Sunday.

On Saturday, the volunteers canvassed an additional 289 houses/apartments and came up with 12 pledges and 2 new voters; for a total of 14 . They spent the entire day knocking on doors and speaking with residents and voters. One resident, Eric Johnson, a Vietnam Veteran, was out enjoying a Barbecue with his neighbors when he was approached by Jorge Castro and Sydney Brown. Mr. Johnson shook hands with the volunteers and told them how proud he was to see them on the streets and canvassing. He recalled the bitter experiences he had returning home from the war and the social disarray and political apathy that he encountered. Mr. Johnson then told the volunteers that "he was very proud of the work they were doing. He offered bottles of water to the volunteers. Another elderly lady chatted with Joe Tagoan, a volunteer and UNR student. She pointed out neighbors' homes that would be happy to sign the pledge. The next street over, a retired couple out for a morning stroll along Plumas Street spoke with Joe Tagoan and Joaquin Roces and expressed that they knew of PLAN and were registered voters and promised to participate as well. After chatting briefly, the couple left saying how happy they were to see "young people getting involved...that they were doing good work." The volunteers finished canvassing Voter Precinct 1018 on Saturday and covered 601 homes/apartments in the precinct and collected a total of 39 pledges and voter registration applications. Volunteers committed 26 volunteer hours over three Saturdays to complete the precinct. According to May 17th 2007 Washoe County figures this precinct had 870 registered voters, with 43% democrats and 26% republicans. The April 18th 2008 figures show that total registered voters have increased to 933, and democratic voters representing 48% and republican voters representing 24% of the total population sample. 63 new voters signed up over the past 11 months. In the contest for the presidency in 2004, Kerry and Bush were in a dead heat with Kerry holding 49% and Bush trailing with 48%. At the stroke of midnight on the 3rd of November, Nevadans chose President Bush over John Kerry 50% to 47% — moving the state's 5 electoral votes into the Bush column. It was a margin of 3%.

On Sunday, volunteers once again gathered in front of the US Bank at Wells and Vasser. This time they were preparing to work the crowds that were here to enjoy the first annual Fiesta at Wells Avenue. According to the Reno Gazette Journal, more than 5,000 people had attended the Wells Avenue event by 3:30 p.m. The volunteers from PLAN worked from 11:30am to 3pm. Again the reactions from the people were very positive. County Commissioner Kitty Jung, who was out to enjoy the cultural events and festivities, paused to chat with volunteers and signed on pledging to vote in the up-coming elections in November. Commissioner Jung stated her 3 most important issues were women's rights, social justice, and education. She took the time to walk and chat with several of the volunteers and explain her position and duties as a county commissioner and commended the volunteers for their "fine work." Jorge Castro was able to register 5 new voters that afternoon. This is the Civic Engagement Initiative's second special event during the campaign. The first was at UNR's Annual Night of All Nations held at UNR's Lawlor Events Center. The two special events gathered 38 pledges and voter registrations. The initiative has gathered 83 pledges and voter registrations since its inaugural event on the 12th of April. THANKS TO ALL OUR VOLUNTEERS FOR THEIR HARD WORK AND DEDICATION!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Passing the torch: Engaged in volunteerism and determined to make the world a better place

A component of the PLAN's Civic Engagement Initiative is combating voter apathy and increasing voter participation. Phase One of the initiative is targeting a half dozen voter precincts within Reno over the next 6 weeks that have demonstrated traditional low voter participation. Registered voters in Nevada will help select the next PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES. In the contest for the presidency in 2004, Kerry and Bush were in a dead heat with Kerry holding 49% and Bush trailing with 48%. At the stroke of midnight on the 3rd of November, Nevadans chose President Bush over John Kerry 50% to 47% — moving the state's 5 electoral votes into the Bush column. It was a margin of 3%. Although Nevada has historically leaned Republican, the high concentration of labor unions and the Hispanic-American vote make it a potential battleground state. (Its 2006 Gubernatorial election was particularly competitive, and Republican Jim Gibbons won only by a slim margin.) The Las Vegas metropolitan area with its dramatic increase in population has become an attractive destination for Democratic campaign resources, and Republicans are buoyed by the strong disapproval ratings of Gibbons (29% approval rating as of March 2007) and Bush (34% approval rating as of March 2007). Furthermore, Nevada has, with the single exception of 1976, been won by the victor of every US Presidential election since 1912, a record which makes it a secondary bellwether state. The 2008 election is vital to the important issues that will impact and affect the future our social and educational institutions, national security, foreign trade and relations, our environment and the future of ALL NEVADANS.

The Civic Engagement Initiative is asking all registered voters to give their pledge that they WILL vote in November of 2008. Volunteers from the community, local organizations and TMCC High School spent their Saturday morning canvassing approximately 250 homes in Voter Precinct #1018, which is south of the Nevada Museum of Art and west of Virginia Street, knocking door to door asking registered voters to pledge that they will participate in the up-coming national election in November. Each volunteer was paired with another and hit the streets armed with voter registration applications and pledge sheets and worked in groups of two. Kat Baltierra and Jorge Castro teamed up and set a record of 12 pledges and 2 new voters registered. Kat, who is a senior at TMCC High School, stated that people were very excited to see young people actively participating in our democratic process and added that people generally had a positive attitude towards the volunteers. Her partner, Jorge, agreed, stating that people were happy to engage the young activists in a 'chat' about the issues. Another volunteer, Joe Togoan, who had done similar projects for the Democratic Party here, said that it was also important to convey to the residents and voters that this initiative was a non-partisan effort. Joe was also teamed up with another TMCC High senior, Amanda Gabbert. Their team was able to secure two pledges and register two new voters. The training the volunteers underwent at PLAN stressed this aspect of the initiative. Ireri Rivas, who coordinates the program, stated that these areas are very diverse and contain mixed communities of varying socio-economic levels and political orientation, avoiding heated debates and maintaining a "smile" and a neutral non-partisan stance is important in securing peoples' pledges. The volunteers also disseminated information to several residents who were ex-felons on how they can reinstate their voting rights. As, Langston Hughes once penned, "Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death, the rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies, WE, the people, must redeem the land, the mines, the plants, the rivers. The mountains and the endless plain-- All, all the stretch of these great green states-- And make America again!" In the United States, approximately 70% of the eligible population registers to vote, which may be an important contributing factor in the low average election turnout, and in recent decades just barely has topped 50% of voting age population in presidential elections. However, in 2004, election turnout was up to 64% of the voting age US citizens. In the early, caucuses and primaries, including Nevada's caucus, according to, the "Millennials," as sociologists have dubbed the youth vote; have already shaken up the presidential primary races with their surprisingly large turnouts in the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary at 13 percent and 43 percent respectively. It is the hope of the organizers at PLAN to continue that positive momentum and increasing the avenues for educated civic participation in our democratic process. Thanks to all the volunteers who participated in the event and for giving up their Saturday morning.