Politics

George Floyd protests created a surge in voter registrations, groups say

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Key Points
  • Voter registrations, volunteer activity and donations for groups linked to Democratic causes are surging in the midst of protests following the death of George Floyd, according to voting advocacy organizations.
  • This surge in registrations could end up being one of the factors that helps tip the election between apparent Democratic nominee Joe Biden and President Donald Trump. 
  • The efforts are by groups including Latino voter registration organizations, Rock the Vote and one co-chaired by former first lady Michelle Obama.
A protester holding a fist in the air and a sign that says Prosecute Killer Cops!!, Vote Trump Out, Black Lives Matter, Stop Killing Us and Enough is Enough outside the Barclays Center.
Ira L. Black | Corbis | Getty Images

Voter registrations, volunteer activity and donations for groups linked to Democratic causes are surging in the midst of protests following the death of George Floyd, according to voting advocacy groups.

This surge in registrations could end up being one of the factors that helps tip the election between apparent Democratic nominee Joe Biden and President Donald Trump. The efforts are by groups including Latino voter registration organizations, Rock the Vote and one co-chaired by former first lady Michelle Obama.

Latino voter registration groups in recent weeks have noticed an uptick in their communities mobilization to vote, particularly from younger voters. The leaders of these organizations said that many are registering after nationwide outrage directed at police brutality and the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, which has left over 100,000 dead and tens of millions jobless in the United States. Unemployment rates for Hispanic and black workers remained high at 17.6% and 16.8%, respectively, even after the nation added 2.5 million jobs last month.

Latino voters are a key voting bloc for whom Biden and Trump are competing. Yet polls show that Trump has largely been out of favor with the majority of the Latino community, in the wake of his administration's efforts to cut off funding to young immigrants who were brought to the country illegally and to build a border wall across the Mexican border. A recent survey shows 62% of registered Latino voters would back Biden over Trump. 

Floyd died last week while being subdued by a white Minneapolis police officer. The four officers involved in the arrest of the black man have been charged in his death, which sparked nationwide protests. Many young Latino voters, leaders of these groups said, are showing solidarity with members of the black community in their opposition to Trump. 

Voto Latino, a 501(c)(4) nonprofit that is looking to help Democrats overtake Trump by registering a record number of Latinos to vote, said it has seen a massive upswing of registrations since protests began over a week ago.  

Maria Teresa Kumar, CEO of the organization, told CNBC the group has already surpassed its June goal of registering 20,000 people, including in the key states of Arizona and Texas, and is expected to have 50,000 Latino youth registered by Sunday. She said they've done extensive digital test ads in states across the country tying the need to vote to what Latinos are witnessing in the protests. She said the group has leaped over its June target of spending $140,000 in those two Southwest states, where polls show a tight race between Trump and Biden. 

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Protests against police brutality spread beyond the U.S.

Now, the group is preparing to invest another $300,000 as a result of the gains. Kumar has previously told CNBC that she is aiming to register at least 500,000 young Latinos by Election Day. 

The group's website reflects how Voto Latino is encouraging Latino voters to register for the election, noting that policing, mayors and prosecutors are often determined by local elections. 

"There are many ways to get involved to end police brutality and racist policing," the website says. "Be sure to vote all the way down the ballot for leaders who will listen to us and who care about the safety and lives of our Black and brown communities." 

The demonstrations have ignited a larger push, particularly by Democratic leaders, to persuade people to organize and vote in addition to peacefully protest. 

"This is not an 'either or.' This is both, and to bring about real change, we both have to highlight a problem and make people in power uncomfortable, but we also have to translate that into practical solutions and laws that can be implemented and we can monitor and make sure we're following up on," former President Barack Obama said in a recent online address. 

In other cases, voter registration groups such as When We All Vote, an organization co-chaired by Michelle Obama, are seeing big jumps in support at the financial and volunteer levels. 

The group has raised over $55,000 since last week, on an increase of 70% of online donations. Over that same period, it signed up 1,500 new volunteers. In two days, it trained 700 people to become voting squad captains who lead voter registration and engagement in their communities. 

Rock the Vote, a nonprofit dedicated to registering voters that was founded by music executive Jeff Ayeroff, has seen historic results in just the past week. Carolyn DeWitt, the group's CEO, told CNBC that since Monday, it has seen over 50,000 new voters. She said it's the most registrations in a single week during the 2020 election cycle. Part of that success comes on the heels of the group recently seeing 1.4 million impressions on its social media accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat. 

Although the group can't make a direct link in the surge of registrations to the protests, DeWitt said it suggests that voters are looking for extensive changes to their government. 

"While we don't necessarily have evidence right now until we dig into the motivations of registering at this moment, I think the urgency raised awareness that people believe change needs to happen," DeWitt said. Rock the Vote's online voter registration platform is used by over 1,000 partners, including Voto Latino. 

Demographics of voters who were registered by Rock the Vote's own efforts this week shows 70% were under age 30, 76% were women and 39% said they were people of color. Forty-two percent of the under-30 group were people of color. 

Mi Familia Vota, a civic engagement nonprofit, has registered up to 3,000 new voters this week throughout the states where it is based, including Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Nevada and Texas. Its CEO, Hector Sanchez Barba, said he believes it is due to the protests that have taken place in the wake of Floyd's death. 

"We have seen solidarity with our African American brothers and sisters," Barba said. "It's unacceptable that we see all this racism and violence, and we are going to stand with the African American community because an attack on one is an attack on all of us." 

Correction: An earlier version gave an incorrect first name for Jeff Ayeroff.

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Protests continue across U.S. as President Trump threatens to deploy military