ACLU Northern California


Building a coalition of voters who will stand up for civil liberties


The 2018 general election offered a unique opportunity for the ACLU of Northern California to bolster its presence in the Central Valley and bring its policy objectives to the forefront of the campaign. To promote awareness of vital civil liberties issues and shape the electoral debates, the ACLU embarked on a mission to engage lower propensity and newly registered voters of color, enhance downballot turnout in specific contests, cultivate a volunteer base for the ACLU, and educate voters about the key issues, connecting them to Congressional House races.


50+1 Strategies worked with ACLU Northern California to develop a plan of action around those goals, identifying priority targets and choosing the best tactics. We prepared a total budget of $1.3 million split between the three districts. We scaled up a paid field program of 5 full time staff and 105 canvassers who hit 155k homes and had nearly 32k voter conversations. The messaging developed by us for ACLU centered around issues of family separation, women’s access to reproductive healthcare, and equal pay. Based on these issues we sent twelve versions of two mail pieces in two languages, totalling 455,955 pieces of mail to 229,690 households. We also created three rounds of graphic ads and produced two 30-second video ads, in both English and Spanish. We ran this creative content on Facebook, Instagram, as banner ads, in pre-roll ads, and on YouTube.


Our efforts ensured that voters were informed about each candidate’s stances on major civil liberties issues in each race. Our paid field program turned out voters who had never before been contacted by political advocacy groups by going into communities that are often overlooked. ACLU’s name recognition also increased as voters started recognizing the canvassers returning to their communities. Ultimately, our biggest success was building the foundation of organizing support that the ACLU needed in the Central Valley to continue its civil rights work and expand its outreach.