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NCC Part of Drive to Activate Two Million New Low-Income Voters

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January 14, 2004, WASHINGTON, D.C. – Convinced that a key to ending U.S. poverty is for low-income citizens to be fully engaged in the political process, a coalition of grassroots and faith-based groups today announced a campaign to activate more than two million new low-income voters in 2004.

“The voice of the poor must be heard, loudly and clearly,” said the Rev. Dr. Bob Edgar, General Secretary of the National Council of Churches U.S.A., at a news conference to unveil the $15 million get-out-the-vote effort.  “The ballot box provides that voice.”

Today’s news conference was called by the Center for Community Change, a national non-profit organization that provides technical assistance, training and policy support to low-income community groups.  Other groups present included the Gamaliel Foundation, the Northern Plains Tribal Voter Education Project and the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN).

Deepak Bhargava, Executive Director of the Center for Community Change, said, “Paid ads won’t do the job.  Working with these organizations that are deeply entrenched within the community will help mobilize voters.” 

Bhargava said the Center for Community Change will work “with organizations with deep roots in the community to help organize voter mobilization” and other work “on a wide range of issues that matter for people,” such as health care, jobs, education, adequate wage, child care and transportation. 

The voter mobilization campaign will be launched formally in Columbia, S.C., on January 30 at a televised “Presidential Candidate Dialog with America’s Families,” sponsored by the Center for Community Change. 

Low-income families will directly pose questions to the candidates, marking the first time a dialog with candidates will be held directly with working poor people.  The dialog will be followed by thousands of people from South Carolina and other states boarding buses for a massive door-knocking get out the vote and voter education campaign throughout the state.

The National Council of Churches will be present for the candidates’ forum, then convene faith-based people on Saturday, January 31, for planning around ending U.S. poverty.  Bridging the two events will be an interfaith worship service the evening of January 30.

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