How to vote early and help end voter disenfranchisement

Election Day is technically on November 6th, but in many states across the country, voting has already begun — and in too many states, some people won’t be able to vote at all.

Early voting is an underutilized tool that can be incredibly beneficial to Democrats. The process varies from state to state, but voting casting a ballot in the weeks leading up to Election Day helps ensure a maximum number of votes, shortens lines at the polls for everyone else, and makes getting out the vote on November 6th that much easier.

There’s a reason why Republicans have sought to curtail early voting in so many states: it has historically been utilized most by working people and minorities.

Voting early helps strengthen democracy. If you’re interested in finding out if your state has opened early voting yet (or when it might start), Vote.org and the New York Times have you covered.

Trying to vote early will also help ensure that you’re not left hanging on Election Day due to the increasingly malicious schemes being run by Republican legislatures and Secretaries of State. Progressives Everywhere has focused a lot on voting rights over the last year, and this week, the national public finally took notice of an egregious but in no way atypical scam being run Brian Kemp, the Georgia Secretary of State and GOP candidate for governor.

There are currently 53,000 voter applications in limbo in Georgia because of unnamed “violations” of the Exact Match system that Georgia uses to disqualify voters. Just 10% of those registrations are from white people, while 70% belong to black voters. Kemp has since 2012 purged a whopping 1.5 million voters from the state books and closed 200 polling places, working diligently to disenfranchise the state’s growing minority population.

His history is a stark contrast to his Democratic opponent in the gubernatorial race, former State House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams, whose New Georgia Project worked to register 800,000 voters since 2014.

A coalition of civil rights groups have sued to get those 53,000 registrations confirmed in time for the election so people can fill out real ballots and not provisional ones, and Abrams is working hard to create a network of poll monitors and volunteers to make sure every vote is counted.

Here’s a pretty good summary:

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The race is neck and neck and Kemp’s only hope may be to steal this election. We can’t let that happen. You can donate to Abrams campaign HERE.

Unfortunately, this is just one of many voter suppression schemes. Here are just a taste of the others happening across the country:

How to make sure your vote isn’t stolen

The confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court is disheartening; the manner in which it went down, with misogynist aristocrats ramming through their classless manchild nominee and spitting in the face of women and assault survivors nationwide, was downright infuriating.

So let’s use that fury to change the country. First, make sure you are registered to vote HERE. In New York alone last month, there were legions of people who thought they were registered but has their names missing from the voter rolls when they went to cast a ballot in the primaries. Georgia and Ohio have purged over a million registered voters alone in the last few years. Other states are doing the same. So check to make sure you are registered, the send it to everyone you know.

If you find you aren’t registered, HERE is the registration deadline for every state in the country. Many still accept registrations.

And once you make sure you’re registered, it’s time to do help turn out the vote. Now that we are just a month away from Election Day, I want to focus on GOTV efforts. I’ve been wary of public polling, because they have been so often off the mark. But several polls released last week caught my eye not because they tracked any one race, but because they were meant to gauge voting habits by age and gender.

While the top lines look good for Democrats — a 5-10 point lead in generic ballots, a more motivated voter base (albeit a smaller advantage) — the demographics are troubling. Two separate polls showed that less than a third of young (18-29) voters are actually certain that they’re going to vote: Gallup had the number at 26%, while The Atlantic/PRRI poll put it at 28%. Compare that to older — and inherently more conservative — voters.

For context, Gallup found that 69% of voters 50-64 were certain to vote, and a whopping 82% of voters 65 and over were promising to cast a ballot. Atlantic/PRRI had the senior citizen cohort at 74% absolutely committed to voting.

Even with my skepticism about these polls, a conversation I had last week made me realize that we really do take for granted that party identification and candidate preference automatically translate into votes. I was shocked when a close friend of mine who falls into that 18-29 bracket and is definitely a liberal told me that he hadn’t registered to vote.

Now, I can’t totally blame young people (I’m 32) for feeling like voting is somewhat useless, because even with Obama in office for eight years, the deck continued to be stacked against us. Massive student debt, stagnant wages, limited opportunity, crappy healthcare — Democrats did not do enough to help young people and secure loyal and frequent voters.

But things are demonstrably worse under Republicans, who are teetering toward a mix of autocracy and terrorism, and 2018 is our one real shot at pushing back. We have to devote ourselves to turning out every potential voter we can, and there are a number of progressive organizations working to create unprecedented GOTV operations that will make that happen.

Here’s a look at some of them and how you can help them:

VoteRiders: A group devoted to both fighting Voter ID laws and helping the people who live under them navigate their complicated requirements, so that no one who shows up to vote gets turned away from some racist bureaucratic reason. You can donate to VoteRiders HERE.

Progressive Turnout Project: A grassroots organization that works in individual districts to turn out voters, going door-to-door and making phone calls to engage citizens on a local level. Their record of success is really impressive, starting with last year’s romp in Virginia.

Black Votes Matter: African-Americans are the most loyal Democratic voters, but too often they are either turned away at the polls or otherwise disengaged from what is in many cases a rigged system. But when they vote, Democrats win — 98% of black women voted for Doug Jones last year and helped make history. (There needs to be a conversation about how Democratic politicians need to work hard for their votes and not just pay lip service, which is a topic that must be addressed in 2019.) With so much on the line, Black Votes Matter has been touring the south and organizing local communities to take power, with a focus on winning elections this November.

Stand Up America: An advocacy and political action group active in the resistance over the last two years, Stand Up America has been providing volunteers to campaigns this election cycle, helping beef up Democratic presences in local races.

Make the Road Action: A New York-based advocacy group that is organizing Latinx citizens and workers to take on corporate power and corrupt politicians. The group has fanned out to states across the Northeast this election cycle to help activate Latinx and other voters.

CLICK HERE to donate to one or more of these groups via Progressives Everywhere’s ActBlue Page!

Julie Oliver, in TX-25, is running one of the most inspiring campaigns of 2018

After years of establishment Democrats running rote, indistinguishable TV ads and peddling cautious, focus-group-tested messaging, a wave of fresh, progressive candidates have decided to communicate like actual humans. Fresh faces such as Randy Bryce and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have produced a series of especially moving digital ads that have gone viral, and this week, even amidst the Kavanaugh calamity, a new progressive star was born.

Julie Oliver, who is running to represent Texas’s 25th district in Congress, narrates her own life story in the ad; she grew up in near-poverty and ran away from home as a teenager, squatting in abandoned buildings until she got pregnant at 17. Shunned by her boyfriend’s family, she returned home, where her mother agreed to help her — on the condition that she get back to school.

The rest is the sort of up-from-your-bootstraps American Dream success story that seems to only happen in movies or very hypothetical conservative scenarios: Oliver worked and raised her family while attending college and law school, and now at 45-years-old, she’s an accomplished lawyer and community leader running for Congress. Her experience makes her uniquely empathetic to the needs of working people, a quality in short supply in Washington today.

“We have a president who keeps me in this fight because we’re given reasons every day to fight or to stand in a fight with somebody,” Oliver told Progressives Everywhere last week. “Whether it’s immigrants, it’s kids who deserve a fantastic, great public education, or our veterans, I’m standing in the fight with them.”

CLICK HERE to donate to Julie Oliver via Progressives Everywhere’s ActBlue page!

Oliver felt compelled to run in the summer of 2017, during the heat of the GOP attempt to overturn Obamacare. She spent years working in healthcare finance and law and was intimately familiar with the issues facing both the system and individual patients — the cost of being uninsured, the stress on rural hospitals and clinics, and the still-too-high uninsured rate, which sits at 16.6% in Texas. The Republican obsession with exacerbating all those issues spurred her to action.

“A year ago when Congress met to repeal the ACA and didn’t have a plan to replace it, they just wanted to yank the rug out from under millions of Americans,” Oliver explained. “I said, this is so ludicrous that they would do this. Millions of people benefit from having healthcare coverage under the Affordable Care Act, and even though it’s not perfect, it works for a lot of people.”

She has personal stake in the ongoing fight, as her son has an immune system issue that would qualify as a pre-existing condition under any insurer. Her family would have been yet another to fall victim to medical bankruptcy had the ACA not guaranteed coverage. Having spent so much time in the healthcare industry, she is strongly in favor of moving to a Medicare for All system and suggests that should she win, she’d sponsor a House version of the Choose Medicare Act, which would create a public option and be a big first step toward a single-payer system.

After winning a close Democratic primary settled in a run-off election, her GOP opponent in the long, gerrymandered district is Rep. Roger Williams, who has been in office since 2011. Williams has accomplished little more than taking some photos with Donald Trump and collecting lobbyist donations. Oliver has sworn off all PAC donations and has an innovative proposal for creating a public campaign finance system, which would be funded by using Congress’s broad authority to levy taxes to tax Super PACs. It’s not a pipe dream, legally speaking — Oliver worked for years in tax law, and so she is intimately familiar with the ins and outs of our complicated system.

CLICK HERE to donate to Julie Oliver via Progressives Everywhere’s ActBlue page!

“Not taking PAC money really is so I can say that I want to be a representative for the district and for me to be able to talk to somebody who might not see eye-to-eye with me politically,” she said. “That’s a game-changer, when I say that I don’t take PAC money.”

Being in Texas means that there will be plenty of voters who are not immediately predisposed to voting for a progressive Democrat, if only due to years of fear-mongering by Republicans and half-hearted efforts by local Democrats. Oliver laments the toxicity of the current political climate and has resolved to overcome hurdles inherent to Democrats in Texas one voter at a time, even in a district that stretches over 400 miles.

While Williams has been criticized for being relatively absent from the community he represents, Oliver has dedicated herself to door-to-door campaigning, town halls and senior center visits, trying to create “the human-to-human touch that has been missing” over the last decade or more. The district, which stretches from Fort Worth to Austin, is a +11 Republican district, which is red, but not nearly as red as some of the other districts that have flipped already this year. And there is hunger for more change.

Watching the Kavanaugh hearings, as painful as they were, reminded her of just how different 2018 feels, of how the furor being experienced by women and anyone with a conscience has become so overpowering that no level of obstruction or institutional unfairness can stem the rising tide of rebellion.

“I believe that women are going to going to get woke, for lack of a better term, and they’re going to come out and vote,” Oliver, who has two adult daughters, said. “The misogyny and the patriarchy that we see that has been going on for a long time and coming down from the highest levels of office — we’ve got to smash it, smash the patriarchy.”

And no matter what happens in her race, she’s already doing her part to advance the cause of working people and inspire women with her action and her story.

“A dad reached out to me on Facebook yesterday and he said, ‘Your story is so eerily similar to my daughter’s. She’s pregnant now and she’ll be raising the baby by herself as a single mom. She didn’t think that she had a future,'” Oliver recalled. “And he said, ‘I started talking to her about you about a month ago, and then she saw your video and she texted me today and said that she had enrolled in her first college course.’ I just started crying.”

CLICK HERE to donate to Julie Oliver via Progressives Everywhere’s ActBlue page!

Another Democratic uprising in Texas puts a deep red GOP district at play with progressive policy

When I started Progressives Everywhere last year, it was with candidates like Miguel Levario in mind. In order to truly rebuild a better Democratic Party, we need to work to build it everywhere. Too many states had been instantly surrendered to Republicans, which, along with enabling corrupt politicians to govern millions of people, had the effect of making our political map smaller and smaller.

There were far too many districts that didn’t even field Democratic candidates for local and federal office in 2016 — including Levario’s northwest Texas district, TX-19, which includes cities like Abilene and Lubbock and major schools such as Texas Tech University.

Levario is a professor of history at Texas Tech and the first Democrat to seriously run to represent the district since 2004, when Texas’s extreme partisan gerrymander made it deep red. But between Texas’s seismic and ongoing demographic shifts, the district’s changing profile, and the wave of progressive energy sweeping a nation disgusted with GOP grifters, Levario figures he has a pretty decent shot at pulling off the upset. His opponent is against an unremarkable Republican, Rep. Jodey Arrington, who is running for re-election for the first time, improving his odds even further.

CLICK HERE to donate to Miguel Levario via ActBlue!

“In the 19 months we’ve been running, I’ve met more independents than in the first 11 years I lived here,” Levario told Progressives Everywhere last month, laughing at the observation. “Before, everybody was proud to be a Republican and proud to be conservative and they didn’t hide it. Now, whether it’s because of the White House or Congress or just the divisiveness in society, I have Republicans telling me, ‘I can’t believe I’m meeting with a Democrat and I like you.'”

The northwest Texas district is still predominantly rural, but the growth in the universities and the further development of medical/biotech hubs in Lubbock and Abilene have brought an influx of younger, more progressive residents in more urban and suburban areas.

That leads to some divergent concerns, but Levario is bridging the gap by running on an unapologetically progressive platform that aggressively challenges entrenched corporate interests, addresses cultural divisions pushed by the GOP, and includes policies such as Medicare for All.

“We’re not getting the anti-Obamacare rhetoric, even from Republicans. When we talk about healthcare, they’re afraid they’re going lose the little bit that they have,” Levario reports. “In our smaller areas, they’re already seeing the clinics close down and at the very least they’re seeing services being taken away because they simply cannot afford it because Texas did not take the Medicaid expansion. I find it ironic that some of our clinics are in heavily Republican, pro-life areas, yet they can’t deliver babies because they can’t afford to it.”

He’s no longer hearing misguided hysterics over “socialized medicine,” given the rising cost of healthcare and the increasingly limited availability. One voter that he met on the trail told Levario that he had to go to Europe to get affordable care for his cancer; many others have had family members or friends forgo medical care, due to the expense, until it was too late.

The cruel reality of the modern medical business, even in a district with so many medical research centers, has changed the attitude of voters there.

“We haven’t moved our platform to the center,” Levario says. “We believe in people. We don’t shy away from Medicare for All because that’s what people want.”

CLICK HERE to donate to Miguel Levario via ActBlue!

It also helps that Arrington is such a hardcore more Republican. He worked for George W. Bush when he was both Governor and President, now supports Trump’s Muslim ban, and uses bible verses to justify cutting off food stamps. It puts him far outside any American mainstream, and as Republicans lose grip on Texas — look at the Beto O’Rourke surge against Ted Cruz — it also puts Arrington further on the right wing even in that state.

Still, when Levario began his campaign, he heard from plenty of old-school Democrats — the remains of the party, those that didn’t convert to the GOP after the LBJ years — that he had to play it safe to have a shot.

“They said you’ve got to be more moderate. People 60 and older were still believing that we’ve got tread lightly here, saying we live in a conservative district and we should more in the middle,” he relayed. “I listened, but then as I said, when we go and talk to people, they don’t want ‘moderate,’ they want what they want. They want healthcare, they want funding for their schools. They want their teachers to get paid.

“We don’t frame it as being liberal, progressive, socialist, or Democrat,” he continued. “That might turn off people because of the cultural context here. But the platform and the plans and proposals that we offer are certainly along those lines of a progressive candidate.”

The growing Hispanic population in the district has yet to equate to a political shift, but as Levario notes, he’s the first Latino candidate to run for office there, and he’s predicting the beginning of the sea change that many have been bracing for in Texas.

“The thing is, Latinos vote. They just never had somebody to vote for. Lubbock is a very segregated city. So we’ve spent time in the neighborhoods that are predominantly Latino and African American. They know us and they said, yeah, you’re the first and only candidate that’s been out here in God knows when.”

That points to how Levario is running his campaign. Money is often tight, as it’s hard to get big Democratic donors to look at rural Texas when so many more obvious swing districts are at play. They’ve eschewed many TV ads or billboards on Texas highways, instead relying on grassroots support, going door-to-door in both cities and rural neighborhoods, holding events and shaking a lot of hands.

An influx of donations would go to digital campaigning — social media and Google ads — instead of the tradition of pouring money into TV or local radio, which provides less and less bang for their buck.

The core of the Levario campaign will always being present in the community, opening minds to Democrats and progressive policy one voter at the time.

“I always tell people it’s more expensive to avoid your constituents,” the candidate says. “You’ve got to make commercials and all kinds of stuff so that you can avoid them, but if you just confront them, it’s actually much cheaper. Just have to pay for gas.”

If Democrats can win a district like this, the GOP’s hold on so much of the country will no longer be a sure thing. And that would truly change America.

CLICK HERE to donate to Miguel Levario via ActBlue!

Teachers went on strike. Now, they’re taking over the government.

Sixteen months ago, Cyndi Ralston was retiring after 30 years on the job as an elementary school teacher. Now, she finds herself working two full-time jobs, back in the classroom and running for the Oklahoma State House. The campaign meant that she had no summer break, having instead spent her time “off” knocking on doors, holding events, and rallying her neighbors to take the final steps toward toppling the far-right regime that had thrown the entire state’s education system and infrastructure into disrepair.

“It’s kind of crazy the way it’s all falling into place — this was never in my life plans,” Ralston, who is running to represent District 12, told me last week. “My poor husband is already like, well, I guess I’ll see you on the weekends, dear. I mean, he’s already gotten used to it. I’m never home. But someone had to do it.”

When I spoke with Ralston last April, she was driving home from Oklahoma City, where she had spent yet another day helping lead a teacher walkout over the tattered conditions of the state’s beleaguered, underfunded public schools. Her retirement had been short-lived; she jumped back in the classroom just months after announcing her departure, mostly because no one else would do it. By the spring, she was leading a brave teacher walkout in an effort to save public education.

Over the prior decade, Oklahoma gave billions of dollars in tax cuts to millionaires and fracking and oil companies despite severe budget shortfalls, robbing public education budgets to do it. Between 2008 and 2015, public education was slashed over 23%; photos of shredded textbooks went viral last spring as the nation finally took notice of the damage. In tense budget negotiations, a majority of Republican lawmakers agreed to increase taxes on gas production slightly (though still far below pre-2008 rates) to give teachers a $6000 pay increase.

Not all Republican lawmakers supported even that small pittance, and an increased education budget was dead on arrival, leading the teachers to walk out.

CLICK HERE to donate to Cyndi Ralston and other teachers running for office as Democrats in Oklahoma and Kentucky!

The strike led to a slight education budget increase, but nothing close to adequate. So teachers, generally apolitical in Oklahoma, decided to take matters into their own hands, running for office to unseat the Republicans that voted against raises and education funding. Oklahomans, while generally conservative, supported the strike by a wide margin. And they proved it in primary elections this summer, as a dozen of the GOP legislators that voted against teacher raises were ousted by more moderate Republicans who publicly supported them and were not as beholden to extremist special interests.

“Oklahoma’s waking up and not as strongly red as we were,” Ralston, a longtime Democrat, says. “And as fast as they put us on that map for President Trump, we’ve got people that didn’t vote but have said no, we have to vote — it didn’t turn out well when we just stayed out of it.”

Ralston’s opponent, Kevin McDugle, was famously outspoken against teachers, and when he published a Facebook note ripping them for taking action, Ralston officially announced her campaign. McDugle won his primary by three votes, a squeaker that Ralston says he would have last had McDugle’s opponent not literally withdrawn from the race. There are ten anti-raise legislators left; eight have teachers running against them. Ralston is working to finish the job of ousting McDugle, and at times, she finds herself having to battle a bad conservative-fueled narrative about why teachers go on strike.

“I’ll have people that will say, ‘I don’t think teachers should have walked out and gotten a raise,’ so it’s been good to talk to people one-on-one. I’ll tell them that the teachers did not ask for the raise. The school superintendents were the ones that were asking for the raise because they can’t find new teachers to hire,” Ralston says. “I say the teachers were going for resources in our classroom so that we could get textbooks and technology to teach children. Teachers walked because they didn’t give that to us.’ They say, OK, I didn’t know that, and I can accept that.”

And it’s evident to everyone, even those not all that keen on the strike, that the crisis is far from over. Oklahoma issued more emergency teacher certifications this year — over 2100 — than any time in the state’s history. And very, very modest increases in education funding cannot patch over giant craters left by years of bombs dropped by Republicans owned by rich oil interests.

CLICK HERE to donate to Cyndi Ralston and other teachers running for office as Democrats in Oklahoma and Kentucky!

“I actually got math textbooks. I still don’t have enough. It’s lovely to have an actual set of books and have actual manipulatives to use in class — oh my gosh, it felt like Christmas, we got something we haven’t gotten in ten years,” Ralston says, laughing with only a hint of irony. “But it’s not enough. We’ve got a class set and we’ve got three classes. I have had to make copies and the kids have to copy things down. They were talking about replacing English books, but I don’t know where they ended up. I think they were going to look and see which were are the oldest, to try to get a set of those books replaced. So it didn’t end up very much at all.”

Still, it’s a start, and Ralston has seen the power that teachers have in the state.Between education, looming Medicaid work requirements — Ralston is vehemently opposed — and redistricting at play, teachers and parents are motivated as never before. Her message is simple if a bit sarcastic — typical for a whip-smart, funny teacher who has spent over 30 years around second graders: “Why don’t you stop giving oil and gas companies tax breaks and let people hold on to what little you’re giving them?”

With an open gubernatorial election that could flip to Democrats due to the collective hatred for outgoing Gov. Mary Fallin, progressive Democrats have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to turn Oklahoma blue (or at least very purple) once again.

CLICK HERE to donate to Cyndi Ralston and other teachers running for office as Democrats in Oklahoma and Kentucky!