The “Why Vote?” Solution

The Right Question Institute’s “Why Vote?” Tool fosters a strong sense of urgency for people in low-income communities who are not regular voters to vote. They begin to see voting as a self-advocacy role they can and want to play. The “Why Vote?” Tool allows people to:

  1. See the connection between specific public services they rely on and decisions elected officials make.
  2. Name for themselves why they want to vote once they see that connection.
  3. Ask questions about the actual process of registering and voting.
  4. Connect with efforts that will help them register and vote.

The Potential

The “Why Vote?” solution has great potential to increase turnout in low-income communities. We piloted our nonpartisan voter engagement strategy in ten states around the country, using key elements of the “Why Vote?” Tool. Data from work with adult literacy students in Arizona showed that after going through our program, participants felt more prepared to vote and more interested in voting.

Angie, a young mother in Concord, New Hampshire, said, “It’s at the welfare office that we learn our voice doesn’t count. But [after the Right Question Institute’s workshop], I see that our voices do count … and we need to vote.”

The Missing Low-Income Voters

The evidence is clear:

  • The lower the income level of potential voters, the less likely they are to vote.
  • The higher the income, the more likely they are to vote.

This disparity between voting rates is a fundamental problem in our democracy. If we aim to address disparities in income, health, education, criminal justice, housing, and environmental protection, we must begin with addressing the disparities in voting rates.

Take Action

Help make democracy work better. We are providing free technical assistance and materials to support use of the “Why Vote?” Tool by direct service programs — including social service agencies, food banks, shelters, early childhood and youth programs, and community and civic organizations — in states all around the country.

To take action to reach more people in low-income communities:

For inquiries and to tell us about your experiences, email us at microdemocracy@rightquestion.org.

Unique Expertise

Since 1990, RQI has worked with residents of low-income communities across the country. We’ve worked with sugar plantation workers in Hawaii, public housing tenants in Chicago, migrant workers in North Carolina, homeless shelter residents in Kentucky, and immigrant parents across multiple states, among others.

This work has shown the transformational effect of RQI’s strategy — where all people learn to ask better questions, participate more effectively in decisions, advocate for themselves, and hold decision-makers accountable on all levels of democracy. Randomized controlled trials funded by the National Institutes of Health have shown the efficacy of RQI’s approach in community health centers, and in K-12 education, millions of students around the globe have used RQI’s Question Formulation Technique to become more curious, self-motivated learners.

Luz Santana, RQI’s co-director, leads the “Why Vote?” Initiative and brings invaluable insights from her own experiences migrating from Puerto Rico, navigating the welfare system, and working for many years with frontline staff in direct service programs in low-income communities around the country. Santana is co-author with Dan Rothstein of Make Just One Change: Teach Students to Ask Their Own Questions, which has become one of Harvard Education Press’ all-time best sellers.

The “Why Vote?” Tool

The “Why Vote?” Tool
Use this resource to engage potential new voters. Through this process, participants think about connections between services they receive and decisions elected officials make, and they see for themselves the value of voting.

Why Vote? Tool for Youth

Use this tool to help young people name for themselves the value of voting.

Voter Engagement Workshop: Asking the Right Questions About Voting

Use these presentation slides in a group setting to facilitate a voter engagement workshop using the Right Question Strategy.

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