August 21, 2017

Voter Enhancement

Engaging in culturally competent campaign methods at local, state, and national level with the goal of increasing voters of color participation.

We know that communities of color have historically been underrepresented in electoral politics. That is why is committed to supporting the civic engagement of voters of color and the election of progressive leaders of color.

Much of our strategy is outlined in the book “Brown Is The New White,” written by our founder Steve Phillips. Our work involves researching where votes of color can make a difference in races, how demographic trends can affect change in public policy and leadership, and how civic engagement methodologies can change how campaigns are run. Our basic strategy is based on the idea that there is a larger pool of potential voters within this universe than in any other segment. This strategy is in contrast with some of the more common approaches such as voter persuasion of moderate voters. The motivation and inspiration of voters of color in particular is to make concrete (material) gains for communities that have suffered injustice and inequality historically. This doesn’t mean that it only benefits those communities as much of the issue policies that benefit one part of society can benefit the majority of our society. 

PowerPAC strives to target, engage, and mobilize progressive voters in communities of color. We have been pursuing this strategy for over 15 years with numerous campaigns that demonstrate the success of targeting voters of color. Our work has spanned the nationwide (support for Barack Obama and civic engagement in 18 states in the 2007-2008 cycle) to the local races (unseating 18-year conservative incumbents in city races in San Bernardino, CA).

In 2007 we went about building infrastructure, recruiting activists, and fundraising to direct resources to four counties in California. By 2008 we had 10 foundations and numerous donors  focused on funding work to increase progressive voter participation in these counties. By 2014  (six years into our voter enhancement and coalition building strategy) we were able to flip 4 Congressional seats (Peters in San Diego; Takano, Ruiz, and Aguilar in the Inland Empire) and numerous local races. San Diego has been the fastest to change and we have seen dramatic changes in elected boards and policies there. Now, as of 2020 there have been 8 Congressional seats flipped (4 more in Orange County in 2018) and Orange County is the latest county to establish a significant progressive base.

Recently we worked with grassroots activists in Georgia to encourage African American voters to turn out in the CD-6 race in Georgia and to build support for Stacey Abrams’ race for Governor there. In 2018, we continued to deepen our work in California as well as launched a multi-state initiative to support gubernatorial candidates of color in GA (Stacey Abrams), MD (Ben Jealous), AZ (David Garcia), CA (John Chiang), FL (Andrew Gillum), and MI (Mahlon Mitchell).

Other states where we have been active:

  • Alabama (2017 Senate) 
  • Arizona (2020 Presidential) 
  • Florida (2020 Presidential) 
  • Maryland (2018 Gubernatorial) 
  • Michigan (2020 Presidential) 
  • Pennsylvania (2020 Presidential) 
  • Wisconsin (2018 Gubernatorial and 2020 Presidential) 
  • Texas (various races starting with Obama in 2008)


  • In 2007-2008 we ran a 14-state $10 million voter engagement program to mobilize Latino and Black voters for the 2008 Presidential Primary and General Election. Read more about our program.
  • In the 2018 cycle, we made major investments in Stacey Abrams, Ben Jealous, and Mike Espy. We expanded our work in CA to support numerous candidates around the state from city council to governor. And we spent more than $15 million in independent expenditures which contributed to the surge of new candidates of color and voters of color.
  • We have been supporting grassroots and Abrams’ work since 2010. In 2018 PowerPAC worked with the New GA Project Action Fund and GA Engaged to identify over 277K infrequent and new voters of color and turned out 69% through a $7 million independent expenditure.
  • In 2018, through a $4 million independent expenditure, PowerPAC worked with grassroots activists and NAACP branches to identify over 80K voters for Mike Espy in the Mississippi U.S. Senate race. This was from a universe of infrequent and newly registered voters. That vote data was maintained post-election and given to the grassroots groups for follow up building on elections cycle over cycle.
  • Check out our latest work from 2020–a culmination of the past two decades working to increase voters of color in key states across the nation.