While the general election is the most accessible and available race, it's not the only important race this November. In fact, your donation or phone calls could move the needle significantly in smaller elections, races that determine most of the policy in communities that will never get attention from a president.
Choose an election that you're interested in to read more about the stakes; you'll see that the impact is higher than you thought for a "local" race. Then, learn how to begin lending your voice.
There are many levels of our government. Statehouse, state senate, and governors make up the state legislature, the body that makes laws for their state. Those laws are protected under "state's rights." If a party wins a majority in the state legislative chambers, that party can redraw the district maps that determine who votes in what district, and who represents those districts in their state and in D.C. This is called gerrymandering, and Republicans used it heavily to their advantage in 2010, drawing maps around certain neighborhoods and homes to lock in victories for the next decade. The maps will be drawn again in 2020, and it is imperative that Democratic leadership be elected at all levels. In other words, the presidency is not enough.
Your donation of time, money, and enthusiasm can go a long way, but only if you use it smartly.
Think of it like the stock market. If you have $20 to spend on company stock and use it all at Apple, the return is going to be very small. However, if you invest that $20 in a smaller company, you could buy multiple shares, and have a larger impact on that company's progress, and greater returns. More bang for your buck.
Elections are the same way. Your time and effort are well spent in small races that you can really affect, changing the makeup of state chambers that write laws and ensure fair voting practices. We will help you identify those races.
Terms to Know
Incumbent: The person who currently holds the office
Unopposed: This means that the candidate ran without an opponent in that year, and was elected without a meaningful election.
"D+1" or "R+3": Refers to the margin of victory. "D+2" means the Democrat won by 2%, "R+5" means the Republican won by 5%, etc.
The Effects of Gerrymandering
This is a graph that shows each district in the Wisconsin state legislature, and how they voted in 2018. Nearly every close race falls to Republicans,
because the Democratic districts are cracked apart, with their voters sprinkled into red districts that stay red comfortably.
Remember, Democrats cast 190,000 more votes than Republicans. Democrats won the state by 9 points...
Now look at the map again.
What is Gerrymandering?
In 2018, Wisconsin Democrats won 190,000 more votes than Republicans, but Republicans won over 60% of the House seats. Why?
Every 10 years, with the information from the census, parties with the majority in their state legislature (state houses, state senates, and governors) redraw the legislative maps in their favor. They did this in two ways: cracking and packing.
Cracking is the process of breaking up heavily Democratic districts, and splitting those voters into heavily Republican ones, erasing their voice. Imagine groups of California Democrats having their votes sprinkled throughout the south, keeping the south red, and leaving so few Democrats in California to swing California to the GOP as well.
Packing is the opposite, and occurs when Democrats are isolated into one district, the rest left for easy Republican victories. Imagine all of Manhattan's millions of people packed into a single district, and all the surrounding areas taking the rest of the legislature.
That's what happened in Wisconsin.
If that had been in 2020, Virginia Republicans could have gerrymandered the maps in their favor, isolating Democratic voters to a few districts and packing the state legislature with Republican representatives, stealing control for a decade until the next Census in 2030.
We cannot let that happen.
Does My Vote Really Count?
In 2017, there was a race for a state house delegate seat, Seat 94, in Virginia where a mere 22,000 votes were cast in total. The Virginia house of delegates was composed of 50 Republicans, and 49 Democrats, with this election holding the deciding vote. The race was so close, that Republicans, determined to take the seat and maintain their majority, took a single ballot to the Virginia Supreme Court, where it was deemed illegitimate, and the election was called a tie.
What was the solution?
To flip a coin.
The two candidates' names were written on paper, and placed in old film canisters, which were then shuffled in a bowl, and drawn to determine the winner. The Republican's name was drawn, and the state legislature fell to GOP control: a 51-49 majority.
More Like Us
There are a few other organizations doing this work in preparation for November. Below you can read a bit about these other organizations, and we encourage you to join up with them as well!
Vote Save America is an initiative started by former advisors to President Obama both on the campaign trail and in the White House. They have created a way to connect with voters in certain swing states that they have identified as necessary for Biden to win in 2020.
This organization is awesome, but focuses on the big picture.
These states are critical for the presidential election, but we need to target campaigns that are vulnerable at the state level
to flip state chambers so that the residents of those states are fairly represented.
You should absolutely adopt a state! Click here to join them, and then come back and get going at the ground level.
Swing Left is an organizing site that connects volunteers to other organizations doing work on the local level. They may not connect you to specific campaigns, but it can be good for pressuring constituents or campaigns on specific issues that are important to you.
Give them a look over, and then come back to focus your efforts on specific races through Swing From Home.
Forward Majority is an organization focused on fundraising as opposed to getting involved with those campaigns by volunteering.
Visit their site to donate to their PAC so that they can allocate money to races in need,
or do that directly to the campaigns by clicking the Direct Donate button for the candidate through the Elections page.
Then, head back here to the races that have caught your eye and join their team!