By Larry Levine –
Any political consultant worth their salt will learn early that the result of an election can be determined as much by who doesn’t vote as by who does. Often even more.
President Donald Trump apparently knew this when he said months ago that if everyone voted “… you’d never have another Republican elected again.”
He and the Republican Party demonstrated their believe in this adage when they launched the most massive and well-financed voter suppression program in history, $20 million aimed at making it difficult for Democrats, particularly minorities, to vote and have their ballots counted in the upcoming election.
(SEE: The Most Massive Voter Suppression Operation in American History Already Has Started on this blog)
To combat the Republican effort to steal the 2020 Presidential Election, Democrats will need to conduct the most massive, well-financed get-out-the-vote operation in history. That battle must be waged in the courts, the media, the community and the streets.
ON THE LEGAL FRONT
The good news is former Vice President Joe Biden told a recent virtual fundraising session his campaign has singed up 600 attorneys to “fight for people’s right to vote.” These attorneys are busy filing lawsuits against efforts by Republican state legislators and governors to make it more difficult to vote by mail and construct hurdles in the path of those who will want to go to the polls on Election Day.
Election law expert Justin Levitt, Associate Dean for Research at Loyola Law School, spent weeks gathering information about lawsuits already filed in connection with this election. He’s dealing only with suits associated with the coronavirus pandemic as they relate to election issues. As of June 15, he identified 117 cases in 36 states and the District of Columbia. “I’m 100 percent sure I’m missing some,” he said. These don’t count cases with issues apart from the pandemic.
The Biden campaign will need even more attorneys in the coming weeks and months as Republican efforts intensify in battleground states.
Then, on election day, an army of trained attorneys will be needed to protect the right to vote. Not the least of these will be seeking court orders to keep polling places open so everyone in line at the close of the day will have the ability to vote. Attorneys also will need to deal with situations in which polling places in minority neighborhoods don’t open on time, don’t have enough voting stations, or have voting machines that break down.
In advance of Election Day, attorneys will need to establish lines of communication with local law enforcement officers and elections officials to combat Republican plans for shows of force aimed at discouraging people who show up to vote.
In an article in the New York Times in May, noted law professor Rick Hasen wrote: “The Republican program, which has gained steam in recent weeks, envisions recruiting up to 50,000 volunteers in 15 key states to monitor polling places and challenge ballots and voters deemed suspicious.”
Hasen went on to write the Republican efforts are “bolstered by a 2018 federal court ruling that for the first time in nearly four decades allows the national Republican Party to mount campaigns against purported voter fraud without court approval. The court ban on Republican Party voter-fraud operations was imposed in 1982 and then modified in 1986 and again in 1990, each time after courts found instances of Republicans intimidating or working to exclude minority voters in the name of preventing fraud. The party was found to have violated it yet again in 2004.”
Attorneys also may be needed after Election Day to monitor the counting of late absentee ballots and provisional ballots and to oversee possible recounts. Again, law enforcement should be alerted to the possible need to protect vote counting locations against the kind of thuggery Republicans used to halt the counting of ballots in Florida in 2000 and steal the election from Democrat Al Gore.
IN THE MEDIA AND THE COMMUNITY
The Biden campaign and its supporters must foment a backlash against the Republican voter suppression operation. Voting must become a cause celebre among Democrats, particularly those groups that have been attacked and aggrieved by Trump – African Americans, Latinos, Jews and Muslims.
It would suit the Biden campaign well to produce and popularize hats and T-shirts with the words “My Vote Will Count” printed on them.
Volunteers, supplied with leaflets urging people to vote, should visit community events, seek out speaking engagements at civic organizations and engage with people at religious facilities. The mantra should be “Republicans don’t want you vote.” “Make Every Vote Count.” “Voting – more important than ever.” “Donald Trump doesn’t want you to vote. FIGHT BACK.”
The campaign or non-partisan groups should produce television and radio commercials reminding people that their vote matters and re-enforce the message with social media. To the extent the coronavirus permits, there should be get-out-the-vote parades to draw television coverage.
Volunteers, law professors, Democratic Party officials and others should be a constant presence on talk radio, pointing figures at voter suppression efforts. They should write letters to the editor of local newspapers, bombard social media, and hold new conferences where possible.
In short, the Biden Campaign must create a culture of voting. By Election Day there should not be a single voter who doesn’t understand the importance of participating in this election.
Tens of thousands of volunteers must be recruited across the nation to further drive the get-out-the-vote passion. I know of some in California and other states who already are addressing mail to be sent in October to remind people in swing states to vote. As the election draws nearer, volunteers across the country should be supplied with list of voters to phone in those same states. A controlled experiment funded by the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials found two live calls – not robocalls – will increase the chances of someone in a household voting by 13 percent.
Volunteers should be dispatched to remind voters with absentee ballots to mark and mail those ballots early. Depending on the situation with the coronavirus, volunteers might knock on doors, ask people to mark their absentee ballots and then collect those ballots to mail or turn in to elections offices. Republicans have attached the pejorative name “ballot harvesting” to this activity as they try to demonize it and they tried in legislatures and courts to have it made illegal. They claim it is fraught with opportunities for fraud, yet the only known instance of significant fraud in this was committed by a Republican operative.
A favorite trick of Republican elections officials has been to eliminate polling places in areas where Democrats are expected to run well. In Minneapolis for this year’s Primary the normal 180 polling places were reduced to 5 (yes, five). The largest county in Kentucky, which contains the state’s biggest concentration black voters, had just one polling place. Texas closed 750 polling places. States with Republican governors, legislatures or elections officials will do this in November to force voters into long lines and discourage people from voting.
The result, of course, is long lines waiting to vote at the end of the day. Local Democratic clubs, party organizations and Biden campaign teams need to be ready to serve sandwiches, pizza, coffee, donuts and other edibles as they urge people to stay in line and wait to vote. Nearby public restrooms should be identified for use by people waiting to vote and volunteers will be needed to reserve the place in line for those needing to use those restrooms. This will present another challenge for the legal teams as there will be efforts to disenfranchise people who leave the line. One solution might be to work out a plan with the local elections office to provide identification for those in line at the close of the day to assure no one joins the line after the close. In many states it will be a good idea to have umbrellas, warm blankets and coats available.
THE STUDENT VOTE
Perhaps the biggest challenge facing the Biden campaign is that universities and colleges will not be open and that could make the difference in swing states where the margin is extremely tight. The first casualty will be the voter registration dives. Then there will be the difficulty of generating a turnout among student voters. Instead of being concentrated in the dorms, nearby apartments and on the campuses, students will be disbursed throughout a state. It is going to require local volunteer organizing to locate these students, get them registered, and then make sure the vote. In the case of out-of-state students, the problem will be compounded. They will be scattered among many states and will have to register and vote at those addresses.
In assessing the winnability of a state based on results of past elections, the potential decrease in student votes must be considered.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
The Biden Campaign website has a page on which you can volunteer.
The Democratic National Committee has a “take action” page on its website at which you can volunteer.
Contact your state Democratic Party office and ask about volunteering to help elect Joe Biden President or to support state and local Democratic candidates.
Swing Left is a volunteer organization coordinating activities to support the Presidential campaign as well as U.S. Senate races and key state legislative races.
Indivisible is organizing volunteers to weigh in on election campaigns and social issues.