Lisa Garcia Bedolla: How to Convert Sometimes Voters to Regular Voters

Dr. Lisa Garcia Bedolla

Remarkable gains in turning sometimes voters in to regular voters were achieved by some community groups in get-out-the-vote campaigns, reported Dr. Lisa Garcia Bedolla of the University of California Berkeley in her talk at our Annual Meeting June 6.   Among 9 different community groups working over more than 6 elections, 2006-2008, Dr. Garcia observed improvements in voter turnout among registered voters who voted only occasionally from a few percent to up to 45%, compared with similar registered voters who were not contacted.

Dr. Garcia and her co-author Melissa Michelson worked with nine Latina/o American, African American and Asian American community groups in California. They found that personal contact–through knocking on doors or by telephone–by someone from the potential voter’s own community and, where relevant,  speaking the voter’s native language–was very effective in persuading occasional voters to vote in the upcoming election–and in future elections–in other words, in turning them into regular voters.

Most effective of all were the groups who followed up with a second visit–at least one of these groups increased voting in the contacted group by 45% more than in the control group, that is, people in similar circumstances who were not contacted. Follow-up phone calls were also effective—with up to 10 percentage point effects—more than double that of a one-call phone bank and equivalent to a well-organized door to door effort.

Dr. Garcia Bedolla’s most recent book (with Melissa Michelson) Mobilizing Inclusion: Transforming the Electorate through Get-Out-the-Vote Campaigns (New Haven: Yale U. Press, 2012) describes this work. Her  other award-winning work includes: Latino Politics and Fluid Borders:  Latino Power, Identity, and Politics in Los Angeles.

Nancy Bickel



A record crowd of 61 attended the Annual Meeting and, after a tasty meal and Dr. Garcia’s fascinating talk, voted to support the Board’s recommendation to change LWVBAE from a 501c4 to a 501c3 IRS category of non-profit, so that membership and donation will become tax-deductable to the donor.

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