Massive Turnout Needed to Defeat the Right in 2022 – Voter Registration, Early Voting and Mail-in Ballots Require Big Push in October
By Eddie Wong. Posted September 17, 2022.
Labor Day marks the beginning of the fall push for the Nov. 8, 2022 election in which the Democratic Party needs to win to maintain its narrow majority in the U.S. Senate and the U.S House of Representatives. The mid-term election will decide whether President Biden and the Democrats will be able to pass reform legislation in 2023 and 2024. Key races for governor, secretaries of state, and control of state legislatures will decide if there will be fair elections in the 2024 when the president and Congress are elected. Think of 2022 as a dress rehearsal for 2024 when the far-right vows to claim victory even if they lose the vote.
The broad democratic coalition (socialists, progressives, independents, moderates, and traditional Democrats) must meet the challenge of the highly organized and well-financed extreme right exemplified by the Republican Party. Enlarging the progressive voter base requires the patient work of voter registration. The Republican Party has certainly upped their game by using an organizational network of conservative churches and issue groups to sign up new voters. Progressives can certainly match and exceed their efforts by concentrating on younger voters and people of color who already lean towards embracing multicultural diversity, immediate action on climate change, reproductive rights and many other issues. Voter registration deadlines generally fall in the middle of October for most states.
We must launch an all-out mobilization NOW because nearly 70% of all voters may cast their ballots before Nov. 8. In 2020; 43% of voters used mail in ballots and 26% voted in mid to late October taking advantage of early voting at polling sites. Certainly, the pandemic played a role in spurring people to vote by mail or going to polling sites in the weeks before election day. Democrats tend to use early voting more than Republicans. Thus, there is an urgent need to recruit volunteers, join phone banks and text banks, and participate in door-knocking mobilizations to engage Democratic and independent voters with a progressive message. I’ll point out ways to get involve later in this article, but first let’s look at some key deadlines for democracy.
Voter Registration Opens the Path to Victory
Overall, the intense battle for the Congress and key state races in this polarized political environment is driving up voter registration. States have different deadlines to register to vote. And many states have enacted new laws to purge the voter rolls, so do not assume that you are still on the rolls. Five states (Missouri, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island) have bills that place restrictions on voter registration, “including shortening the deadline to register to vote, imposing new residency requirements that could impede students’ ability to vote, and prohibiting compensation for anyone who solicits a voter registration application, which could impose a significant burden on voter registration drives. “(source: Brennan Center Voting Laws Roundup: May 2022). This report also noted that in Arizona, a newly passed law “may retroactively require documentary proof of citizenship from currently registered voters, it has been estimated that as many as 200,000 voters — some of whom have been registered voters for decades — could be at risk of having their registrations canceled.” One way to counter the forces which want to restrict the electorate to conservatives is to register new voters and re-register progressive-leaning voters.
Several high-profile voter registration efforts are underway. Numerous corporations, state election agencies, and community organizations are focusing on Sept. 20, 2022, as National Voter Registration Day. In past years, over 4.5 million people have been registered on National Voter Registration Day. Non-profit organizations have also been conducting year-round voter registration with a focus on signing up youth who are about to turn 18 years old and people of color. The Southern Poverty and Law Center is investing $100 million from its endowment to aid civic engagement groups in the South over the next ten years.
Women’s outrage at the overturning of Roe v. Wade and the subsequent attacks on reproductive health at the state level have led women to register and hopefully vote for candidates who will protect the right to choose. A rise in women registering to vote certainly had an impact in defeating the Kansas referendum to overturn abortion rights. One week after the Supreme Court’s ruling, more than 70% of newly registered voters in Kansas were women. The New York Times also reported on Aug. 25, 2022 that “in states that collect party affiliation information for new registered voters, the surge among women also accompanied an increase in Democratic registration. Overall, 55% of women who registered with either major party chose the Democrats after Dobbs, compared with 44% in the month before the leak.”
Tom Bonier, Director of Target Smart, noted in an CNN story on Sept. 6, 2022 that “If women turnout at a rate, maybe 10 points higher than men, you see a dramatically different electorate than you would have expected to see in the midterm election that dynamically should favor Republicans given everything else.” The League of Women Voters is mobilizing volunteers to conduct non-partisan voter registration at schools, colleges and transit hubs provides information on how to register at Vote411.org.
Youth voters helped provide the margin of victory for Democrats in several key states in 2020, e.g., Georgia, Pennsylvania, and Arizona. Will they turn out in this non-presidential election year? One hopeful sign according to CIRCLE (Center for Information and Research on Civil Learning and Engagement at Tufts University) is that in “Michigan, Nevada, Arizona, California, Colorado, Kansas, Georgia, and others, there were more young people (ages 18-24) registered to vote as of June 2022 compared to June 2018. However, states like Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Florida have fewer youth registered now than at this point in the previous midterm cycle.” (Source: CIRCLE, “Where the Youth Vote Can Be Decisive in 2022,” Aug. 11, 2022). The CIRCLE reports also states that Latinx youth in Arizona and Nevada and Black youth in North Carolina and Georgia may play a key role in the mid-term election just as they did in 2020 when their turnout was above average. Long-established groups such as Rock the Vote and state-based voter mobilization efforts are ramping up youth voter registration as schools and college campuses are back with in-person learning.
The number of days allocated for early voting varies from state to state. Some states offer Saturday and Sunday voting; some states only offer early voting during business hours Monday through Friday. Getting out the vote entails educating voters about their options and making sure that they receive mail in ballots and know how to process cast their vote before election day.
Updates from Battleground States and Other Key States
With a matter of weeks before the Nov. 8 election, prospects for the Democrats retaining the majority in the U.S. Senate have improved, while they are likely to lose control of the House. Of the 35 House races labelled as “competitive” by many analysts, the Republicans only need to hold all of their seats and win five more seats. The Democrats have a tall hill to climb, but even if they lose some competitive races, the better they make their case to voters, the better their chances will be to take back a district in 2024. “I think there’s probably a greater likelihood the House flips than the Senate,” said Sen. Mitch McConnell in an August interview. “Senate races are just different. They’re statewide… candidate quality has a lot to do with the outcome.” No shit, Sherlock. With rabid Trump election deniers, anti-women and sadly mentally challenged candidates like Herschel Walker in Georgia as their Senate candidates, the Republicans have some real “winners.” More importantly, statewide races allow progressives to opportunity to maximize Democratic voters in their urban and suburban bases to win. This is exactly how Warnock and Ossoff won their special election to the U.S. Senate in January 2021.
Arizona – The mid-term election in Arizona is hotly contested on many levels. The re-election of Sen. Mark Kelly is a must-win for Democrats. His opponent Republican Blake Masters, a staunch Trump election denier, recently scrubbed his campaign website of language accusing Democrats of trying to “import a new electorate,” an open endorsement of racist, xenophobia and white supremacist ideology. State races and propositions are also highly charged with Trumpers Kari Lake running for governor and Mark Finchem running for secretary of state.
The state legislature is narrowly controlled by Republicans, and they have used their majority to pass voter suppression laws and anti-abortion legislation. Flipping a few seats to the Democrats would blunt the right’s power and provide a safeguard against a Republican invalidation of the popular vote for president should a Democrat carry Arizona in 2024. Lastly, restrictions on voting will be on the ballot via Prop. 309 which would require voters to provide either a state-issued identification number or the last four digits of their Social Security numbers when they apply for an early ballot. Getting a state identification card adds a burden on people who for various reasons are unable to go through the application process.
The intense battle over these races and Biden’s victory over Trump by 10,457 votes in 2020 means that both Democrats and Republicans are mounting aggressive voter contact campaigns. Vote Forward has launched a letter writing campaign to persuade likely Democratic voters to register before the October 11 deadline. Sign up now because letters must be mailed out by Sept. 26. Currently, Republicans are 35% of the electorate with No Party coming in at 34% and Democrats at 31%.
Several grassroots organizations such as Living United for Change in Arizona, Arizona Asian Americans Native Hawaiian Pacific Islander for Equity, Arizona Wins along with the state Democratic Party, AFL-CIO, Working America – Arizona and other groups are conducting voter engagement activities. The National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials estimates a record turnout of 644,000 Latinx voters for the mid-term election, which represents a four-fold increase in two decades. The Latinx vote has historically favored the Democrats. For a detailed look at the Asian American vote, read Organizing in a Battleground State: Jennifer Chau and AANHPI for Equity.
Georgia – The Peach State is the focus on national attention given the high-profile campaigns of Stacey Abrams for Governor and Sen. Raphael Warnock, who seeks re-election to the U.S. Senate. Progressive State Rep. Bee Nguyen’s race for Secretary of State is also exciting Asian Americans across the country as well as Georgia Democrats.
Hyper-awareness of the election has led to 1.6 million people registering in the past few months. 20% of Georgia’s voters have registered since the 2018 election, which is important given purges of the voter rolls in 2019.
Voter mobilizations are underway by many groups and candidate campaigns. One notable effort is Georgia Poor People’s Campaign, which has a strong base among African American churches. They are inviting local organizations to host watch parties for the National Revival services led by Rev. William Barber and Rev. Liz Theoharris on September 21 and October 17. The Georgia Poor People’s campaign is also hosting simultaneous marches in Atlanta, Columbus, Valdosta, Savannah, and Macon on October 15th. Early voting begins on Oct. 17 with Saturday voting on Oct. 22 and Oct. 29. Sunday voting occurs in select counties on Oct 23. Lastly, the New Georgia Project Action Fund plans to open up 13 field offices across the state, field volunteers to knock on 700,000 doors, and turn out 150,000 new voters.
Nevada – Democratic Senator Catherine Cortez-Masto currently holds a seven-point lead over Republican challenger Adam Laxalt, chair of Trump’s 2020 presidential campaign in Nevada. Laxalt claims that Biden stole the election. A strong increase in voter registration among women is boosting Cortez-Masto’s chances as Laxalt staunchly favors the reversal of Roe v. Wade. Latinx voters are 20% of the electorate and strongly favor Masto.
The race for governor and secretary of state are also generating excitement and anxiety in Nevada. Democrat Gov. Brian Sisolak is running for re-election against Trump-endorsed Joe Lombardo, the Sheriff in Clark County (Las Vegas). With Nevada’s economy in doldrums, Lombardo is hoping that discontented voters will favor him. Pundits consider this race to be dead even. In the secretary of state race, former state assemblymember Jim Marchant claims the 2020 election was stolen by Biden. He is opposed by Democrat Cisco Aguilar, a lawyer and member of the state athletic commission. According to an Aug. 22 poll, Marchant currently holds a four-point lead in the race over Aguilar.
Latinx voters comprise 20% of the electorate and turnout is expected to rise by 5.8% over the 2018 midterm election. Somos Votantes, a Latinx voter mobilization group has a canvassing operation in place, and its affiliated Somos PAC has purchased $4 million in ads to support Masto. Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are the fastest growing ethnic group in Nevada and their votes for the Democrats provided a critical margin in Biden’s close victory in 2020. One APIA Nevada conducts year-round voter registration work among APIAs who are 10% of the state’s electorate.
Several national organizations such as the AFL-CIO, Working Families Party, and other groups are in the field contacting voters.
Early voting in Nevada begins on Oct. 22 and runs through Nov. 4.
North Carolina – The Tar Heel state features one of the most competitive U.S. Senate races as Democrat Cheri Beasley, former chief justice of the state Supreme Court, faces three-term Rep. Ted Budd, a Trumper who backs Sen. Lindsay Graham’s proposed federal law to ban all abortions after 15 weeks. Voter registration has gone up 2% since December 2021 with an increase in women registrants.
The state legislative races are a huge priority for the Republicans who need to gain two seats in the State Senate and three seats in the State Assembly to attain a supermajority that can override Democratic Governor Roy Cooper’s veto. Republicans have wanted to ban all abortions in North Carolina. Two seats on the State Supreme Court are up in this election.
With much at stake for the future of North Carolina, voter registration has increased with a net of 20,000 voters in the past few months according to Kate Fellman of YouCanVote.org. Party registration indicates that the 7 million voters are 36% Democratic, 33% unaffiliated, 30% Republicans and .7% to other parties. Trump won North Carolina narrowly in 2020 with a margin of 1.3%.
Several voter mobilization projects are underway to get Democratic and independent voters to support Beasley and other progressive candidates. The New North Carolina Project targets improving turnout among Black voters and Latinx voters. Their work is modeled after Stacey Abrams’ work in Georgia, which emphasizes year-round training of voting rights activists and development of new candidates. They hope to bring a majority of the 1 million eligible voters of color who did not vote in 2020 to the polls in 2022. Similarly, the New Rural Project, which operates in seven of the poorest, rural counties in the state, is conducting deep conversation surveys to persuade young people and people of color in rural North Carolina to register and vote.
Early voting in North Carolina begins on Oct. 20 and ends on Nov. 5. A handful of sites are listed on each county.
Pennsylvania – The open U.S. Senate seat features Democratic Lt. Governor John Fetterman vs. Republican Dr. Mehmet Oz, who only moved to the state in 2020. Oz, who was endorsed by Trump, has been floundering in the polls and is falling behind Fetterman, who has recovered from a stroke and has resumed campaigning. Democrats need to win this seat if they want to preserve their US Senate majority.
The governor’s race is also generating national coverage. Retired Army colonel and Republican state Senator Doug Mastriano, a Trumper who participated in the January 6 Washington, D.C. Capital demonstration, faces state Attorney General Josh Shapiro, who currently leads by 10 points in the polls. Since the governor appoints the Secretary of State to oversee elections, there is grave concern that a popular vote for a Democratic candidate for President would be invalidated if Mastriano became governor. Since the Republican-controlled state legislature has vowed to enact more restrictions on reproductive rights, Pennsylvanians need a Democratic Governor who would veto those bills.
Democrats need to flip four seats in the state Senate and 12 seats in the House to win a majority in the General Assembly. That’s a tall order for Democrats in 2022, but certainly not impossible to achieve in a few more election cycles.
Pennsylvania Stands Up is a membership-based organization with several chapters throughout the state. In 2020, their members held conversations with 400,000 people as part of a voter mobilization effort. They along with a diverse coalition of African American, Asian American, Latinx, and other groups are conducting voter contact campaigns utilizing door knocking, phone banks and text banks, and digital ads. Additionally, national groups such as the Working Families Party, the AFL-CIO and other organizations are active in Pennsylvania.
Early voting is beginning 50 days before the election and ends on Nov. 1 at the local county election office. A voter needs to bring identification and one’s mail-in/absentee ballot.
Wisconsin – The battle for the U.S. Senate pits Democrat Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes against incumbent Republican Sen. Ron Johnson, who supported Trump’s false election fraud claims. Mandela currently holds a narrow lead over Johnson, who has fallen out of favor among moderate and independent voters. Democratic Governor Tony Evers is locked into a tough re-election battle against Trump-endorsed businessman Tim Michels. Whoever wins this race can veto or sustain election laws passed by the Republican-controlled state legislature.
Although Wisconsin does not break out the electorate by party registration, polls show that Democrats and Republicans each hold about 42% of the electorate. As of August 1, there are 3,468,390 registered voters, which is approaching the highest number in state history. Voter registration among young people has increased from 266,869 in 2014 to 275,649 as of Aug. 1. African American Mandela Barnes is a young, dynamic leader and Democrats hope his candidacy can not only reverse declines in the Black voter turnout in Milwaukee and other cities but also ignite the participation of younger voters.
As in other states, a wide assortment of groups is participating in voter mobilization efforts. One particularly strong organization is the Wisconsin Working Families Party, which has been involved in voter education, campaigning for local candidates, and participating in federal campaigns since 2015. Wisconsin WFP is credited with identifying 95,000 voters for Biden in 2020, an election Biden won by 20,682 votes. Several other groups are involved in voter mobilization including Citizen Action, Voces de la Frontera Action, Inc., and Freedom Action Now, Inc.
Voters can vote early in Wisconsin using their mail-in ballot, but the dates and hours of this service vary from county to county. Wisconsin also has same-day voter registration on election day.
Other Key U.S. Senate Races
Ohio – In an unexpected development, Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan has pulled even with Trump endorsed Republican J.D. Vance for the open U.S. Senate seat. Ohio voted solidly for Trump in 2016 and 2020, and Republicans dominate state politics. Ryan, a moderate Democrat who voted with Trump on America First trade policies, is appealing to independent and some Republican voters as a proven lawmaker vs the neophyte Vance, whose claim to fame is authoring “Hillbilly Elegy.” Ryan has rankled Asian American Democrats with a campaign ad where Ryan says, “It’s us vs China.” Blaming China for the loss of U.S. jobs lets American corporations which have outsourced jobs to Asia, Mexico and other countries off the hook. The narrator repeats “China” several times in a way that can trigger anti-Asian hate. Ryan has refused to back down on his ads. Republicans will certainly label him a liberal Democrat as he has backed Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act and other reform legislation. Ryan is backed by organized labor and women’s organizations because of his support for reproductive rights. A Ryan victory greatly improves the Democrats’ chance to retain a narrow U.S. Senate majority.
The vast majority of Ohio voters are unaffiliated. The deadline to register to vote is Oct. 11 and early voting begins on Oct. 12 and ends on Nov. 7.
New Hampshire – Incumbent Democratic Senator Maggie Hassan faces conservative retired Army General Don Bolduc. Hassen is a liberal Democrat and Trumper Bolduc favors a national ban on abortion. Bolduc, who vociferously claimed over the past year that Biden fraudulently won the 2020 election, reversed his position days after he won the Republican primary. He now says that “the election was not stolen.” One can only imagine what Trump, who gleefully called Bolduc the “Trumpiest of them” is feeling now. The only thing worse than a RINO (Republican in name only) for a Trumper is a TINO (Trumper in name only).
Hassan won her 2016 U.S. Senate race with a margin of 1,017 votes so she must go all out in this purple state. Organized labor, women’s groups and environmentalists are active on the ground to support Hassan.
There are no opportunities for early voting in New Hampshire, but any eligible voter can register and vote on Election Day.
Michigan – The key race is between incumbent Democrat Gov. Gretchen Wilmer vs Republican businesswoman Tudor Dixon, who has been endorsed by Trump and conservative billionaire Betty DeVos. Since the state legislature is dominated by the Republicans, Gov. Wilmer has been the safeguard for democracy vetoing GOP voter restriction laws and bills that promote the lie that the 2020 election was stolen by Biden. You can just imagine what Tumper Dixon would do in the 2024 election if a Democrat won for president in Michigan.
Securing a fair election is the focus of the Secretary of State race that pits Republican Karen Karamo, who claims Trump lost 2020 by fraudulent votes for Biden, against Democrat incumbent Jocelyn Benson. Trumper Matt DePerno, another “stolen election” advocate, will face Democrat incumbent Dana Nessel for state Attorney General.
A ballot measure to protect a woman’s right to abortion will also stimulate progressive turnout. Proponents of the measure gathered 750,000 signatures (300,000 more than needed) to qualify the measure only to see the state election board block it from the ballot due to a typographical error. A court decision restored the ballot measure. Current polling shows 67% of Michigan voters support affirming the abortion rights and reproductive health measure. One hopes that this outpouring of support benefits Gov. Wilmer and other Democratic Congressional candidates since they all face anti-abortion candidates.
There are many groups active on the ground in Michigan. Check out Movement Voter Project – Michigan for a list of groups that you may want to support with a financial contribution.
Michigan allows online voter registration right up to Election Day. Voters can bring their absentee ballot to an election clerk’s office two weeks before Nov. 8 to vote early.
Ways You Can Get Involved in Getting Out the Vote
Letter writing and post card writing have been a popular vehicle for volunteers to reach low-propensity voters in a non-intrusive way. Studies have shown that GOTV post cards can boost turnout in a small but impactful way (0.1 – 2.17%). Voting Forward asks volunteers to provide handwritten personalization of computer-generated letters. They report a 0.4 to 3.4% increase of turnout from letter writing. Sister District Action Network has also written reminder postcards to people who had received voter registration forms in the mail and found that “unregistered individuals had a 20% higher odds of returning the completed form when they were sent a chaser (reminder postcard.) “
Contact these organizations if you want to join letter writing or postcard writing campaigns:
There are many national groups that are recruiting volunteers to work phone banks, text banks, and in-person door knocking in battleground states. Seed the Vote works with statewide organizations in the battleground states: Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.
The Working Families Party is a membership-based organization with chapters in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, New Jersey New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. They do year-round organizing on community issues as well as endorse candidates for local office. WFP is currently operating phone and text banks for candidates in several states.
Working America, an affiliate of the AFL-CIO, has three million members. WA has been organizing in communities across the nation since 2003. They have worked on campaigns to raise the minimum wage, expand Medicaid, and secure educational equity. In 2022, WA is active in several states, i.e., canvassing voters in California’s Central Valley.
The Democratic Party runs coordinated campaigns that knit together individual candidate races and federal campaigns in many states. In some counties, the Democratic Party may be the only organized body that is actively getting out the vote. Because its work is transitory, lasting just for the length of the electoral cycle, it must start anew with each election. There is very little infrastructure left behind to build upon the voter contact work. Contact the local Democratic Party if that is the only vehicle to available to you.
Getting Out the Vote Works Best with Effective Messaging
Voters have heard a million times over that this is a “critical election” and that you must vote. The truth of this statement is obvious but is it the most effective way to generate turnout? Anat Shenker-Osorio, a strategic communications consultant and author, provides insights via We Make the Future.
Here’s how she frames the winning narrative for 2022:
Open with a shared value. – “Americans value our freedoms.”
Describe the villains (Trump Republicans) and their actions – “But Trump Republicans want to take away freedom from all who do not look, live, and love like them.”
Use shared value of freedom to connect issues. – “From our freedom to decide if and when we grow our families, to our freedom to vote, to our freedom for our families to thrive, Trump Republicans want to control us, use violence to overthrow elections, and block the policies we favor.”
Reinforce the power of the people: we can because we did. – “Americans must join together across race, place, and party to protect our freedoms. In 2020, we defeated Trump. This November, we will defeat Trumpism.”
The Democratic Party seems to be pivoting its messaging in this direction, e.g., President Biden’s condemnation of the MAGA Republicans as “semi-fascists” which is weaker than we like but better than bloodless themes such as “we gave you money, vote for us.”
We Make the Future wants to encourage voter participation by showing that voting promotes the collective or social good. Thus, statements like “Young people haven’t been voting, we need you to register” aren’t as helpful as “Young people have always led the way to create the world we want to see. That’s why we’re voting in record numbers. Join us by registering today!”
Some GOTV pitches amplify fear, i.e., “If we don’t vote, we could lose everything.” A better messaging is empowerment, i.e., “By coming together as voters, we make the future and make our voices heard.”
Empowerment also extends to asking the voter to contact three of their friends to plan for voting.
Over the next few weeks, press coverage and social media feeds will inundate the public and voters with election coverage. Their goal is to increase eye-balls on their media. Generating controversies big and small will be part of the spectacle, but our task is to focus on the key message of democracy vs authoritarianism. We know that much is at stake in this mid-term election, but we also know that life goes on for better or worse after Nov. 8. We will make a maximum effort to defeat the extreme right, but we know that they are working just as hard to win this election and lay the foundation take over the government by any means necessary in 2024. The massive turnout in the 2020 election showed that people can be aroused and take action to protect our democratic rights. We still need to educate millions of people on the failures of this system to provide for the needs of the people and we need to organize the people to be the guardians of their own future.
Author’s Bio: Eddie Wong is a longtime political activist and cultural work (photography, film and writing) in the Asian American Movement. He edits and publishes East Wind ezine and helps coordinate UnityNews2022.com.