Doubling down for democracy: Our $20 million investment in civic participation and engagement

Image from Mike Blake/Reuters

Like the rest of the nation, the Langeloth Foundation anxiously watched the COVID-19 pandemic and racial justice related uprisings intensify throughout the summer. According to The New York Times, June saw a surge in voter registration that proved these events have inspired many Americans to take their frustration, anger, fear, and hopes to the polls in November.

The Foundation has been concerned about the ability of all voters to participate in the elections in a safe and fair way. In particular, communities of color, low-income communities, and young people are rightly concerned that their right to vote is being infringed upon. With only weeks to go until Election Day and our concerns only escalating, the Langeloth Foundation is proud to announce we have invested an additional $10 million in civic participation and engagement organizations ahead of the upcoming November elections.

Even after the Foundation’s June announcement that we would invest $10 million in civic participation grants, we rallied with our partners in philanthropy to encourage increases in funding, and many groups have already answered that call. Yet as we listened to community and organizer needs, the message was clear: more resources were urgently needed by organizations working on the ground to ensure all voters have their voices heard on Election Day.

After our initial investment was announced, new barriers and challenges arose, including ongoing civil unrest, rising COVID-19 cases, and concerns about inadequate vote by mail infrastructure. It was then that we knew we had to do far more than we had initially imagined. For us, this is a defining moment for voting and civic participation, and ultimately for the health of each and every person living in the United States. That’s why, just a few weeks ago, we convened an emergency meeting with our board and agreed on doubling our efforts to commit a total of $20 million dollars from our endowment for this work.

The recipients of our most recent $10 million investment — State Infrastructure Fund, Youth Engagement Fund, Alliance for Youth Organizing, Power the Polls, Center for Secure and Modern Elections, and the Trusted Elections Fund– are among the leading organizations working to address a myriad of important issues at play this election season. From increasing voter participation in communities of color to making sure polling locations are staffed, these organizations and funder collaboratives are fighting to make voting safe and accessible.

American voters are clearly torn when deciding what the safest, most effective way will be to cast their vote on November 3rd. According to a Washington Post-University of Maryland poll conducted by Ipsos, 51% of all registered voters are planning to vote in-person at their polling place, while 49% prefer to vote by mail or drop their ballot off at an election office or drop box. About six in 10 registered voters want to vote early, an increase from four in 10 in 2010, due to concerns over COVID-19 and the reliability of voting by mail. Only about three in 10 voters are “very confident” their mail-in ballots will be counted accurately, compared to seven in 10 voting in-person. As voters navigate their states’ varying protocol — some allow COVID-19 as an excuse to vote absentee and some offer early in-person voting, while others offer neither, our Foundation is firmly committed to protecting the voting rights of all eligible Americans. These non-partisan groups are working with a single goal in mind, to protect the health and rights of every person who votes in November. We want to encourage all those eligible to vote to register to do so and exercise their right — not just this November, but during every election.

Registered voters should have the opportunity to cast their vote in November, without having to choose between risking their health or practicing their civic duty. Especially as the COVID-19 pandemic persists, it is a public health necessity to avoid long lines, overcrowding or confusion at polling states. From poll workers to letter carriers, to transportation providers, we owe frontline election workers our utmost gratitude and support, now, more than ever.

The Langeloth Foundation is grounded in health and racial equity, and we recognize the importance of the democratic process in sustaining safe and healthy communities. We hope our investment motivates philanthropic organizations, regardless of individual focus, to take immediate action and support civic engagement. Our investment should be understood as a crucial step in supporting the health and well-being of people and communities we care most deeply about.

The Jacob & Valeria Langeloth Foundation

Supporting justice, equity, and opportunity to foster and sustain safe and healthy communities.

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