What have we done?

Huge chunks of change through education, legislation, advocacy, & grassroots organizing.

We have registered over 30,000+ young people to vote and that number continues to skyrocket after each program. During GOTV, we ask millennials to “Pledge To Vote” promising they will turn out on Election Day resulting in 20,000+  direct conversations with young people on the importance of voting.

We recognize the critical need for informed voters which is why every election we mail out/hand out thousands of Voter Guides explaining ballot measures and candidate stances. To date, we have released over 250,000 guides. Yes, Chicago Votes organizers know how to hustle in the field.

We draft, advocate, and pass real legislation that impacts the lives of young people across Chicago. We aim for fair & accessible elections, racial and social justice, economic justice, police accountability and education reform.

Feast your eyes on real big legislative wins. Chicago Votes has helped bring to the people of our communities online voter registration, grace period voting, same-day voter registration, and automatic voter registration. Since we love an inclusive democracy, our agenda is set by the people who do the work – young volunteers, leaders, and supporters across the city.  

 

Here’s a little story of our successes and wins over the past 6 years:

VOTING RIGHTS:

  • PASSED AUTOMATIC VOTER REGISTRATION: When anyone who is eligible to vote interacts with a government agency, you will be asked if you would like to opt- out of registering to vote versus opt-ing in to register to vote. Everyone who is eligible to vote will be registered automatically through the Secretary of States of office.
  • PASSED SAME DAY VOTER REGISTRATION (SB172): Each Election Day, thousands of potential voters were turned away because they had not yet registered to vote. Same Day Voter Registration allows eligible Illinois residents to register and vote at the same time on Election Day. Every voter who wants to join in the democratic process should be able to and arbitrary registration deadlines shouldn’t bar people from participating. Since we hold young people near and dear to our hearts, we even included a section to make sure Public Universities have polling locations right on campus!
  • PASSED ONLINE VOTER REGISTRATION IN ILLINOIS (HB 2148):  Letting people register to vote online is a no-brainer which is why we helped to pass online voter registration!  
  • PASSED GRACE PERIOD/EARLY VOTING THROUGH ELECTION DAY (SB 172): Hate long lines? Us too. Chicago Votes helped to pass Early Voting, giving voters extra time to hit the polls. If voters missed the voter reg deadline, they can now register and vote during Grace Period Voting. 

* Chicago Votes sits on the steering committee of the Just Democracy coalition and is the fiscal sponsor of the NextGen coalition. Our legislative wins are a team effort from both coalitions.

VOTER EMPOWERMENT PLEDGE:

In 2015, after the General Assembly passed our historical election reforms we thought more should be done to lower voting barriers, modernize elections, and encourage participation in our democracy. We asked voters to sign a voter empowerment pledge for voter registration, language access, and pre-registration at 16. None of these bills became law but we definitely got people to think further about what an inclusive democracy means. 

  • 12 More Days of Online Voter Registration: It’s like the 12 days of x-mas but for democracy. SB 1265 extends the time that Online Voter Registration (OVR) is available.
  • Ballots that speak to everyone: Making sure ballots are translated so everyone can understand the choices they are making at the polls. HB 1452 provides more access to translated ballots. 
  • Allowing 16 and 17-year-olds to pre-register to vote: Getting folks registered and engaged early is key to long-term civic health in our state. HB 3368 allows 16- and 17-year-old’s to pre-register to vote. Pre-registered young people stay registered longer and vote at higher rates.  

 

ISSUE BASED WORK:

  • FAIR WAGES: Most workers’ wages haven’t increased with the rising cost of living, especially in super expensive cities like Chicago. We need to ensure that workers are paid fairly for their work, so that they and their families don’t have to struggle to pay their bills. Thus, we are all about that fight for $15.
  • ELECTED REPRESENTATIVE SCHOOL BOARD: At Chicago Votes, we love democracy so much, we want to spread it everywhere. That’s why we think the Chicago Pu
    blic Schools Board of Education members should be
    elected. Unlike every other school district in the state, school board members in Chicago are appointed by the mayor, instead of elected by the public. We believe the selection of a position as important as a seat on the school board should be elected directly by the public, so they’re accountable to us when making decisions about school funding, construction, closings and openings, class size and more. 
  • STOP ACT ORDINANCE: We believe data transparency is essential for police accountability.  The STOP Act requires CPD to collect and share to the public, data on the location, reason, result, and demographic information for all individuals stopped and or/frisked. 
  • VOTING IN JAIL: HB4469 will ensure voters who are eligible and incarcerated have access to the ballot. The legislation will also provide voter education and voter registration form to people in the re-entry process. If passed, Cook County Jail will be the first jail in the country to become an official polling location.

How we measure our successes…

We evaluate our overall work by a triple bottom-line: immediate results, medium-term altering of the political landscape, and the development of new leaders for the long-term. We place an ongoing emphasis on measuring results and tracking progress within these goals.

In order to measure the results of the work conducted we analyze the scope of our work through analyzing the following: (1) Reach; the number of people touched by the work and (2) Impact; the lasting repercussions of our work in the city and beyond. We believe both are necessary to successfully advance our mission to increase civic engagement among young people in the City of Chicago

Some of our Impact:

  • There are 4 million people in Illinois with felony convictions on their record, 80% do not know they have the right to vote. If HB4469 passes, every person who goes through the re-entry process will be given a voter registration form and voter education.
  • There are approximately 20,000 people detained in jail pre-trial in Illinois. Those who are citizens have the right to vote in elections. However, without a formal process in place, voting in jail is nearly impossible, HB4469 will set up systems to ensure people detained can vote.
  • We have added over 30,000 new youth voters to the voter rolls since 2012.
  • Chicago Votes has collected over 15,000 pledge to vote cards after having thousands of conversations in the field on the importance of voting.
  • Surveyed almost 5,000 young people to identify which issues matter the most to youth in Chicago.
  • Due in part to our outreach and work on police accountability, Chicago saw an 80% decrease in the number of stop and frisk instances when Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced reforms to provide data transparency regarding Stop and Frisk a week after we held a press conference in city hall with We Charge Genocide.
  • In regard to our outreach and organizing around democracy reform initiatives, Illinois saw 80% of newly registered voters for the primary election in March happen through online voter registration.
  • Furthermore, 40,000 voters registered to vote using Same Day Voter Registration on election day in early 2016.
  • Finally, our advocacy efforts contributed to a victory in passing SB 250 for automatic voter registration through the Illinois general assembly, which could add 2 million eligible citizens to the voter rolls in Illinois.