A few weeks into early voting, we’re seeing both inspirational turnout and downright infuriating news. Let’s start with the good stuff.
From the 10,000 foot view, the early returns look great for Democrats. In many places where it has already started, there have been far more early votes cast in this election than in 2014, the last midterm election. The numbers, updated daily, can be found HERE, put together by the non-profit Elect Project. And according to New York Times polling, Democrats are far more enthusiastic this year, both compared to 2014 and in general.
In particular, we’re seeing big increases in battleground territories, like North Carolina, Indiana and Tennessee, the latter two home to crucial Senate races. Unfortunately, GOP-run states have not prepared for the crush of newly engaged voters (probably because they do whatever they can to make voting harder), and in Tennessee, registrations have been backed up to the point that some people won’t be able to vote early.
And wouldn’t you know it — the big backlog just so happens to be around Memphis, a majority African-American city.
So much of the progressive strategy has been to mobilize people who are eligible to vote but have felt left behind and disengaged, which is both a smarter and more sustainable tactic than trying yet again to win over Republicans. GOP officials are doing whatever they can to throttle the surge of activism and stop minority (and Democratic-leaning) voters from casting their ballots. It’s happening in Texas and of course in Georgia, where things are even worse than the chaos we described in last week’s newsletter (see the entry below).
Just last week in Georgia, a bus bringing Black voters to the polls was pulled over by police under some dubious pretense, waylaying dozens of people trying to exercise their democratic rights. The bus was a moving target, as it was emblazoned with the Black Voters Matter logo, which is sadly a kind of bullseye for vote-suppressing Georgian officials.
Meanwhile, over a thousand absentee ballots — again, mostly from Black and Latinx voters — have been rejected in Georgia for no good (or very minor, intentionally confusing) reasons. And even worse: over 100,000 voters were purged from the rolls there last year because they didn’t vote in the last few elections, which is the same lame justification Republicans used to justify Ohio’s mass voter purge (which was OK’d by the right-wing Supreme Court).
Luckily, the Democrats nominated an incredible activist in former State House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams. She began the New Georgia Project in 2014 to register close to a million voters in the state and her campaign has been vigilant about challenging both the bottleneck on new registrations and all of the irregularities at both the polls and with absentee ballots. They’ve created a network to have volunteers at every poll station in Georgia, a crucial effort that takes some real funds. And her work (and the work of the GOTV groups) is working, as Georgia is setting records for early voting turnout.
Abrams could not be more different than her opponent, GOP Secretary of State Brian Kemp, the man responsible for so much of the voter suppression. It’s really a microcosm of the choice America faces right now: a racist Republican who hates democracy enough to sabotage it, or a bold progressive Black woman who wants to make her state more equal and fair.
In Kansas, another hub of voter suppression, polling places have been eliminated all over rural, minority-heavy districts. Kris Kobach, the architect of these schemes, is now running for governor in a neck-and-neck race with Laura Kelly, a progressive Democrat who would provide a fundamental change in a state that has been wrecked by tax breaks for the rich.
I have searched high and low for different groups that are giving voters rides to the polls, to combat the unfair voting site closures, but I have largely come up empty. Of course, that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. For example, an amazing grassroots group in PA called Lancaster Stands Up is doing this kind of work, but you wouldn’t know it if it weren’t for some profiles in progressive publications. (They are helping Jess King, one of our amazing endorsees for Congress, who you should seriously send a donation, because her victory would be absolutely game-changing in so many ways.) It’s just way harder to find these groups than it should be.
So one project we face beyond this November is creating an easier way to identify these groups nationwide and send them support. I am very much in favor of local activists making the decisions and leading the way, and hate when national party power brokers in the DCCC swoop in and basically install bland corporate candidates. But I also think it is absolutely necessary to support the local groups from afar with resources and money. Spotlighting and helping those groups will be a major initiative here at Progressives Everywhere going forward after November 6th. If you are part of a group doing this great work, please let me know: ProgressivesEverywhere@gmail.com!
There are a few great GOTV groups you can help right now, including the Black Voters Matter project and Vote Riders. They are doing such crucial work in the face of blatant obstruction and racism. You can DONATE to these GOTV groups HERE!
Early voting starts in Texas this coming week and obviously, all eyes will be on the race between Beto O’Rourke (a good person) and Ted Cruz (a very bad person). But there are other races in Texas where Democrats could score upsets — there are a record 15.8 million people registered to vote in Texas this year, a fact that portends well for Democrats. Along with competitive House races in suburban Houston that are listed as toss-ups, there are great progressive candidates who have an outside chance of turning long-red seats blue.
Here at Progressives Everywhere, we’ve profiled two inspiring candidates for Congress, Miguel Levario (TX-19) and Julie Oliver (TX-25), and I also wanted to flag Mike Siegel, Sri Preston Kulkarni, and Dayna Steele, progressives running strong races in TX-10, TX-22, and TX-36.
None of them are getting help from the DCCC, but they’ve all put together innovative campaigns — Kulkarni has phone banking in 13 languages! — and even winning one of those races would go a long way towards guaranteeing that we flip the House. Plus, are will activating progressive activists and are sure to get more Democratic votes than prior candidates, which is already great for party-building and makes donations to their races a great long-term investment even if they don’t win.
You can DONATE to Siegel, Kulkarni, and Steele via Progressive Everywhere’s main slate page on ActBlue — just make sure to select their names!