George Bush and Howard Dean aren’t the only ones gearing up for the 2004 election — grassroots organizers across the country are getting ready, too. A coalition called America Votes plans to link grassroots groups to pump up election-day turnout. Sixteen organizations, ranging from the AFL-CIO and ACORN to the Sierra Club and Planned Parenthood, have joined so far. Together they represent close to 17 million citizens — a lot of electoral clout.,p> America Votes won’t be endorsing candidates or political views. Instead, its members will educate people, on the theory that folks who know about issues like civil rights, education, labor and the environment are more likely to register and vote.

As Cecile Richards, the leader of the effort, explains, “By coordinating activities, we’ll reach people in a smarter, more targeted way. This is a coalition of the biggest grassroots groups in the country, and it shows their desire to be more effective in the upcoming election.” For more information, see www.americavotes.org.