The Nonprofit Sector Can Do for Elections and the Census What Netflix Has Done for Stay-at-Home Orders

I don’t know about you, but I can’t imagine these last few months without Netflix. The online streaming service has helped shape my socially distanced days – giving me food for thought or just another way to connect to friends and family without actually being with friends and family.

But even before so many of us settled into our couch cushions in March, we all knew 2020 was going to be a big year: the census and the presidential election are coming! And as a true believer in what the nonprofit sector can do for both of these American institutions, I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to say Netflix is to quarantine as nonprofits are to civic participation in 2020. Hear me out: both hold a powerful role in encouraging citizens to do the right thing (social distance, vote and participate in the census). Both Netflix and nonprofits are productive powerhouses, filled with dedicated, creative employees eager to best serve their communities. And with both Netflix and nonprofit engagement in the upcoming election cycle, there’s something for everyone.

Let’s take a closer look at how the nonprofit sector, like Netflix, can bolster this moment and make it better for everyone:

Cheer: Nonprofits Hold the Power to Pump Up Voters for November

Just like Netflix’s Navarro Cheer team imparted how to work together, as a nonprofit sector we have the responsibility to boost voters, working to ensure elections are safe for all. Many people lack the access, means, and desire to partake in mail voting. Therefore polling places must remain open, safe, secure, and in compliance with public health guidelines during this national emergency.

Adequate polling place resources are needed to minimize lines and improve efficiency, including broadband and cybersecurity support, additional machines, additional staff, and larger voting spaces.

Local and state officials must provide safe in-person and alternate voting options to prevent disenfranchising voters who have been severely and disproportionately affected by COVID-19. Such populations include older voters, voters with disabilities, people of color, and voters from marginalized communities.

Big Mouth: Nonprofits Are Positioned to Speak Up for a Safe Census and Elections

The adult-friendly, teenage-centric cartoon Big Mouth teaches us how to take care of our friends, and ourselves. The advocacy work of this sector is the most powerful tool we all possess to take care of our shared ability to vote. As the nation’s third largest employer, nonprofits have the capacity to organize 12.3 million employees and mobilize networks of donors, volunteers, and constituents across 1.5 million organizations.

Through our commitment to racial equity, we must make a collective effort to dismantle systemic racism in our pursuit to advocate against all forms of discrimination and the policies that sustain it. Such policies include voter suppression tactics that create barriers for equal participation.

Vulnerable communities that have been disproportionally impacted by COVID-19 are at greater risk of being undercounted on this year’s census — which will perpetuate a vicious cycle of exclusion for another decade. It is incumbent upon our sector to speak up and  protect the participatory democracy that has been integral to nonprofit success.

Unbreakable: Nonprofits Have the Tenacious Spirit to Get $3.6 Billion to Fund Elections and the Census

Like Kimmy Schmidt before us, nonprofit employees are a tenacious bunch, unwilling to give up the good fight. Though we know the $400 million provided by the CARES Act to accommodate voting during the pandemic covered only a small percentage of the funds needed by state and local election officials for the remaining primaries and general election, we aim to get Congress to commit $3.6 billion to safeguard the electoral process. 

If you’re ready to join Independent Sector in this work, we have plenty of ready-made resources for you:

We hope that along with enjoying your favorite Netflix shows this fall, you and your organization will join us in advocating for safe, healthy elections this year.

Types: Blog
Global Topics: Civil Rights, Civil Society, Data, Election, Infrastructure, IS Member, IS Staff, Public Policy, Voice