StandWatch.org has been working on a project called the Civic Improvement Initiative (CII,) where veterans work with young people and local leaders to promote greater civic involvement. We want to leverage our veterans’ passion and create new ways for elected officials to learn what matters to people on mainstreet. The ultimate goal is to build a coalition of veterans, citizens, elected officials, and corporate supporters who will go out into the field and do everything from rebuild a veteran’s home to teach high school students the basics of social entrepreneurism, all within the context of making communities stronger.
StandWatch is not a political organization and will never do photo-op outreach. As a 501c3, we cannot donate money or campaign for candidates. However, through the CII, if a community leader or elected official wants to come out and get dirty right alongside our volunteers, they will find that the connections they make will have more meaning than any message they try to communicate through a press release or campaign ad. Mutual suffering through hard work will redefine constituent relations. I personally believe that veterans are ideally suited to help facilitate these community-based opportunities.
But some might question whether veterans really matter in everyday politics. I was particularly curious about whether we play an impactful role in state elections. After looking at various data points in our home state of West Virginia, we discovered the answer was a resounding yes! Just looking at the West Virginia State Senate, our research showed:
- In the West Virginia State Senate, districts 1, 4, 9, 11, 12, and 16 are most influenced by the veteran vote.
- Based on our model, GOP candidates in the state received 67% of the veteran vote in 2016.
- On average, the veteran vote accounted for 14% of all votes cast in each senatorial district
In terms of influence, we also discovered that veterans have the numbers to make things happen. According to public records, two influential groups, the United Mine Workers of West Virginia and the West Virginia Education Association have 79,000 and 15,000 members respectively. Both of these groups have exercised significant influence in the halls of the state capital. According to the U.S. Census and the Veterans Administration, there are roughly 151,000 veterans in the state. Given that veterans have the highest voter turnout of any group (67% to 78% depending on who you listen to), the potential to impact our communities is obvious.
We are looking for corporate supporters who want to help us make this happen. Contact Zac Northup at 304-550-1070 if you or your firm is interested in helping us fund projects that team elected officials with veterans so they can help people in need, produce a new generation of social entrepreneurs, and build stronger communities.
More on the Research Part
Here’s how veterans in West Virginia impact the state senate elections:
The U.S. Census does a great job at tracking veteran and non-veteran voter participation. During the 2016 presidential cycle, a majority of West Virginia’s veterans fell within the 76.6% turnout range.
In terms of general demographics, most West Virginia veterans alive today served in Vietnam, or during the “peacetime” of the Cold War.