May: Mobilizing for the Midterms

It was a full room at the Black Dog on May’s Third Thursdays to hear about “Mobilizing for the Midterms”. And with midterm elections just six months away, it’s a good time to start to rally.

We heard from Alyse Maye Quade at the Minnesota DFL, Jeff Aguy from NAACP Mpls, Habon Abdulle from Women Organizing Women (WOW) Network, Francisco Segovia from Copal  and Sami Banat  from  MN High School Democrats. We learned about what is motivating their base and how they are tapping into that motivation to get people engaged and to the polls in November.

Turns out people are motivated by personal issues. Maye Quade got into the DFL to help create a legislature that would be open to gun reform and she is struck by how the issue of gun control is driving people to get involved. Healthcare and school funding too.

For Aguy at the NAACP, his constituents recognize that the issues they have been caring about for 60 years are now trendy - criminal justice reform, economic equity, etc. -  and the time is ripe to take advantage of the attention.

For Abdulle and Segovia, immigration policies and creating a system that everyone feels part of are paramount. They are working with many people who are new to the American system and they are helping them understand the power of their vote and to recognize when and how to make a connection to a candidate beyond the election.

Rounding out the series of issues, Banat and his young cohorts are worried about the environment and other issues that are being pushed off to their generation. They are seeing candidates lose focus on long term issues in deference to policies with shorter term rewards.

A big part of getting people motivated is listening to what people are concerned about, what they need and painting a picture to help them understand how to build to that goal. As Segovia said, the idea is to help people see the dream, not the issues. Paint a picture of how things can be and give people something to vote for – not just against.  

Habon talked about the importance of making politics relevant to people’s lives. In the communities her organization serves, people traditionally turn out for Presidential elections because of the greater media attention.

WOW Network works to help people understand the importance and impact of local elections on their daily lives and to increase participation at this level.

Building connections is another strategy that groups are engaging to encourage voter turnout. Aguy explained that a person who is registered to vote has a 64% likelihood of actually voting. That likelihood increases to 99%  if you connect with them six times before the election.

The NAACP saw that in the Roy Moore election in 2017 and are bringing those lessons to districts across the country. In Minnesota, one of NAACP Mpls’s focuses will be re-engaging inactive voters, people who have not voted in the last 4 election cycles.

And building connections is also where you can use the power of people who can’t vote – because they are too young or not citizens. Non-voters generally have connections with people who can vote and they can use that relationship to teach and encourage informed voting.

The WOW Network is asking their constituents who cannot vote to connect with 10 people who can. COPAL is doing the same, visiting soccer fields, churches, festivals, private homes, asking non-voters to list everyone they know who can vote and then pledging to connect with them all on this issue, as a part of their 10,000 Pledges to Vote campaign.

Aguy pointed out there’s nothing more persuasive than someone you already know talking to you about an issue. He explained that you don’t need to be a person of color to encourage votes with people of color but you do need to have a relationship based on trust with people or communities of color.

Even if many of them can’t yet vote, the High School Dems know they can get other people of all ages excited to vote. Banat mentioned the importance of canvassing as part of this work, a great way of being in conversation with the community. With 40% of the MN High School Dems chapters in rural areas, Banat’s team is sending out information on working on local campaigns to chapters across the state. 

Another powerful tool mentioned is the ability to vote by mail. That removes many barriers and makes it very easy for constituents to vote. Organizing a voter registration house party (which doesn’t have to be in a house, but can be in a library meeting room, a brewery, a park) can be very effective and you can easily make the focus of it to have people register to vote by mail.

And it is important to not only educate and persuade but to make sure people actually vote. Maye Quade explained that in the run up to the elections they contact people to remind them of any pledges they had previously made to vote.  Habon spoke of the many phone calls and texts back and forth leading up to election day making sure everyone is linked up with a ride to the polls to ensure they all vote.

Another point that was brought up was that in the last election, 6 out of 10 white women voted for President Trump and 4 out of 10 Latino men voted for him. The voting percentages do not match up with the narrative. People seem offended by how Trump presents himself, but the results of the vote indicate that people are okay with his message. So there is much work to be done.

One exciting project announced last night was the Power to the Polls initiative by Women’s March National. As Minnesota is a swing state for the 2018 midterm elections, Power to the Polls will be a collaborative project to boost and energize GOTV efforts here. There will be more information on what that will mean soon.

It was an exciting and inspiring evening and we are deeply grateful to the speakers for sharing their experience and knowledge with us. Although not much was said about this during the evening, all the organizations welcome and need support from people willing to volunteer their time and energy, or support the organization’s work financially. (Please find their contact details on their websites, and like and follow their organizations on social media). Thank you too to  everyone who came out and we look forward to seeing you at the next Third Thursdays event in June 21st.