Case #2283.0

Getting Out the (Missing) Vote: Ohio Organizers Experiment with 'Relational' Contacts

Publication Date: April 8, 2024
Current Stock:

Educator Access

A review copy of this case is available free of charge to educators and trainers. Please create an account or sign in to gain access to this material.

Permission to Reprint

Each purchase of this product entitles the buyer to one digital file and use. If you intend to distribute, teach, or share this item, you must purchase permission for each individual who will be given access. Learn more about purchasing permission to reprint.

In the first two decades of the 21st century, community organizers were increasingly enlisted by progressive foundations to help increase voter turnout among the “low propensity” voters in their communities, especially people of color and young people, groups largely “invisible” to the mainstream election industry. In many ways, the organizers—including those in the Ohio Organizing Collaborative, the group at the heart of this case—welcomed this opportunity, believing that it would support and reinforce their traditional organizing work. With greater voting strength, they reasoned, their constituents would gain leverage to advocate more effectively for their communities. But the OOC soon discovered that the goals and protocols of the election industry diverged sharply from those of community organizers. Organizing work was a long game aimed at creating collective power through trust- and relationship-building. Electoral campaigns were fast-paced and laser-focused on getting to “50 percent + 1.” This case follows the Ohio Organizing Collaborative as it worked to find more effective ways to increase voter turnout in target communities and, at the same time, to better align its electoral work with the OOC’s community-organizing values. Like other community organizers across the country, they tried to bring the strategies of “relational” organizing into their get-out-the-vote (GOTV) work. Their experiments yielded results that were mixed, interesting, and pointed the way to some new approaches in future. In addition to the written case, the case package includes a podcast supplement in which Prentiss Haney, one of the OOC codirectors featured in the case, describes his own stop-and-start path to community organizing—and how community organizers recruited and supported him, as a young adult, in a way that eventually persuaded him of the value of political activism.

Teaching Objectives: 
This case can be used to examine a set of mobilizing practices that are distinct from, though potentially complementary to, traditional community organizing. It offers a chance to evaluate the Ohio Organizing Collaborative’s efforts to locate and engage “invisible constituencies”—demonstrating the challenges and promises of relational and community-based organizing in electoral work. And it allows students to consider the importance of data-driven learning loops in a social movement organization.

Other Details

Teaching Plan:
Available with Educator Access
Case Author(s):
Pamela Varley
Faculty Lead:
Liz McKenna
Pages (incl. exhibits):
United States