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2009.12.15 > For Immediate Release
contact: Tim Kaldahl - University Relations
phone: 402.554.3502 - email: tkaldahl@unomaha.edu

OLLAS Report Examines Voter Outreach Work

Omaha - A new report from a political science professor at the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) outlines the impact of voter outreach and mobilization work leading up to the 2008 General Election among new Latino registered voters in a section of Omaha. Face-to-face, door-to-door canvassing and the dissemination of linguistically and culturally appropriate information resulted in community support.

The report, “Project Animate: Promoting Student Civic Participation through Latino Voter Mobilization,” was written by Jonathan Benjamin-Alvarado and issued by the UNO Office of Latino/Latin American Studies (OLLAS). The part of Omaha concentrated on for voter outreach was Ward 4, an area with a growing minority community.

“We conducted a series of events starting in 2007 that established us as a presence in the community,”Benjamin-Alvarado said. In addition to his position in the Department of Political Science, Benjamin-Alvarado serves as the assistant director for OLLAS. “We distributed non-partisan voter information beginning in the fall of 2007 with Mexican Independence Day, and over the course of the next 14 months we had people going door to door to engage the voting community.”

Other outreach activities and methods included, participating in parades and rallies, distributing yard signs that promoted voting and Spanish-language public service announcements. All of the materials distributed were strictly informational, Benjamin-Alvarado said.

The percentage of register voters who actually voted in Ward 4 went up nearly four percent when compared on a percentage basis with the General Election of 2004. The increase in voter turnout all but erased a loss of nearly 3,800 voters in the ward from 2004 to 2008. The percentage of difference when comparing 2004 to 2008 came in at a net gain of 7 percent overall.

“While the ‘Obama effect’ was present in the area, we can’t underestimate the non-partisan role Project Animate had in getting people to vote,” Benjamin-Alvarado said.

All told, 62 college and high school student volunteers—who provided 360 total man-hours--canvassed 32 precincts in South Omaha. The students went to the homes of 2,213 new and Latino registered voters and spoke directly with over 300 individuals. More than half of the students involved spoke Spanish.

This project was funded by the office of the Nebraska Secretary of State to promote voter mobilization in minority communities in Douglas County. The Department of Political Science at UNO served as an on-campus base of operations. Benjamin-Alvarado served as the project manager and Mark Matulka, a graduate student in the Political Science Department, was the project coordinator. Other major organizations involved included the Douglas County Election Commission, Oxide Design, the Omaha Public Schools and Clear Communications Inc.

The report is online at -- http://www.unomaha.edu/ollas/ProyectoAnimate/ProyectoAnimateReport.pdf .

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The University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) is Nebraska’s metropolitan university. The core values of the institution place students at the center of all that the university does; call for the campus to strive for academic excellence; and promote community engagement that transforms and improves urban, regional, national and global life. UNO, inaugurated in 1968, emerged from the Municipal University of Omaha, established in 1931, which grew out of the University of Omaha founded in 1908.

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