State Victories: Voting Rights & Funding Breakthroughs
Credit: Arizona Center for Empowerment
With donors’ support, our local partners are winning years-in-the-making policy victories all over the country — and in the process, giving voters a tangible experience of their own political power, and giving them a reason to stay involved.
Here are just a few examples:
In Arizona, MVF partners Arizona Center for Empowerment and One Arizona, in coordination with the People First Economy coalition, have helped secure the approval of a 2024 budget that allocates $40 million for low-income college grants and $150 million for housing justice.
- The Arizona Promise Program, which offers college grants to low-income students, just doubled its budget from $20 million to $40 million for 2024.
- The Housing Trust Fund, which pays for affordable housing, rental assistance, and programs to help the unhoused, has been allocated $150 million in 2024 — a 250% increase.
Also: In a significant win for climate protection, Arizona’s 2024 budget includes $12.5 million for Electric Vehicle (EV) infrastructure and $4 million for passenger rail.
Grassroots organizations have been organizing and advocating tirelessly for this funding, and have been consulting closely with the Governor Hobbs administration in what they call a “co-governing” model of partnership between government and civil society.
Why this all matters:
- In terms of EV infrastructure and passenger rail, it almost goes without saying that this funding will help accelerate the shift away from climate chaos-causing fossil fuels and toward the clean energy economy we so desperately need.
- The Arizona Promise Program gave college grants to 5,600 students in 2023. With double the funding, the program could fund thousands more young people — all low-income, and many students of color and first-generation college-goers — to attend public university.
- College affordability causes a positive feedback loop: All of the 20 states with Promise Programs have seen higher high school graduation rates, better college attendance, and higher college graduation rates.
- With over 13,000 people unhoused, Arizona has the 8th highest homelessness rate in the country. The Housing Trust Fund corrects over a decade of severe underfunding.
- As MVF partners in the People First Economy coalition have said: “For 30 years, lawmakers have cut Arizona’s public services to the bone, with total disregard to the impact on black, brown, indigenous, and working class communities.” These budget breakthroughs could mark the end of austerity politics in Arizona — and the beginning of an era in government works in partnership with grassroots organizations to fund the public good.
If our local partners are successful, these victories will absolutely be just the beginning. The People First Economy coalition lays out a cohesive policy vision for progressive taxation and increased resources for public priorities, including:
- Education: Equitable school funding, affordable public college, and affordable pre-K.
- Work benefits: Paid family & medical leave, jobless benefits, affordable childcare, and skill-based training and mentorships for good-paying jobs.
- Home and health: Affordable housing, internet access for all, and food security.
MVF in Arizona:
In Florida, a judge just threw out Gov. DeSantis’ congressional maps and ordered the creation of new maps to restore fair representation to Black voters in North Florida.
Why this matters:
- Florida is 17% Black and home to 2.5 million Black eligible voters — more than any other state other than Texas and Georgia.
- Gov. DeSantis’ unconstitutional map had eliminated the 5th Congressional District of North Florida, with a strong Black voting population, and dispersed those Black voters across four new districts, thereby completely diluting their state constitutional right to elect their preferred candidate.
- By spurring the creation of new maps, MVF partners will likely restore fair representation to Black voters of North Florida — as well as help set precedent for future cases around the country, including about a dozen active cases in Alabama, Georgia, and Texas.
MVF in Florida:
In Pennsylvania, officials just launched Automatic Voter Registration (AVR), which will update voters’ registration when they get a new driver’s license.
The program, championed by MVF partners including Pennsylvania Voice and New Pennsylvania Project Education Fund, could lead to thousands more youth and voters of color registering and casting ballots in the months and years ahead.
Why this matters:
- There are 1.2 million eligible but unregistered voters in the Commonwealth, with a more pronounced gap among voters of color.
- There is a 400,000+ person gap between current licensed drivers and registered voters.
- More voters register through the DMV than from any other source, accounting for 55% of registrations nationwide and 60.5% in Pennsylvania.
- There is a second-order positive side effect to AVR as well: Voter registration is expensive and resource-intensive! By essentially automating this step, Pennsylvania is helping grassroots organizations to allocate precious resources toward other crucial voter engagement and organizing strategies.
MVF in Pennsylvania:
In Alabama, MVF partners like Hometown Organizing Project are celebrating a voting rights victory, as the U.S. Supreme Court ordered the drawing of a second majority-Black U.S. congressional district for the 2024 elections.
Although MVF’s involvement in Alabama has been minimal and MVF local partners were not directly involved as plaintiffs in this case, we want to share this story as an example of the broader movement for voting rights of which so many of our partners are an essential component.
Why this matters:
- Alabama is 27% Black, but up until now, Black voters have been relegated to the minority in all but one out of seven congressional districts.
- This kind of “vote dilution” was ruled to have likely violated the U.S. Voting Rights Act, by essentially making it impossible for Black voters to achieve fair representation in Congress.
- Under new proposed district lines — the first significant revamp in three decades — Black voters would have successfully elected the candidate of their choice in at least 13 of the last 17 elections.
Credit where credit is due:
This voting rights victory did not come out of nowhere; it was the result of courageous Black voters working in partnership with philanthropic funders like Fair Representation in Redistricting, and a coordinated coalition of organizations including the Alabama Alliance, Alabama Forward, Alabama NAACP, Greater Birmingham Ministries, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, and ACLU of Alabama.