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Defeating Voter Restriction: A Pocket Guide
What follows is a partial overview of opportunities to help defeat the voter restriction amendment. Many of them also target the marriage amendment. The latest news shows support for the amendment hovering at just over 50%. These last two weeks will decide the outcome. “The more you know, the more it’s NO!” That means that talking to people in large numbers is the key to turning the corner. Following are various ways to do that in concert with a lot of new friends. I’ve included as many links as I could and apologize to the folks whose efforts and organizations I’ve overlooked. The ones listed will hopefully lead you to the ones not.
Here’s a great opportunity to jump in for those who read this post in time. It’s an example of the kind of joint action I’ve been talking about. A Vote NO on BOTH Amendments Community Door Knock will happen Sunday, October 28th from 1:30-5:30. Here’s how the organizers describe it:
“On November 6th Minnesotans will vote on two constitutional amendments that will, if passed, restrict the right to vote and limit the freedom to marry. Let's come together and Vote NO on Both. Diverse communities will join together to rally, train, and then take action. We will door knock in multicultural and multilingual teams to have conversations about both amendments in neighborhoods near the Capitol… (Join us) to talk face to face with voters. We are greater than the sum of our parts. We know we can move and inspire voters when we speak with them face to face. PLEASE JOIN US. Training, scripts, team mates, maps, food and inspiration provided!”
The groups participating (under the title The People:El Pueblo/ Bulshada/ Cov Hmoob Vote NO on BOTH Amendments ) include the African American Leadership Forum-TC, AFSCME Council 5, OutFront Minnesota, Hmong American Partnership, Jewish Community Action, SEIU, Shades of Yellow, Take Action MN, MUUSJA, Reconciling Works, Christ Lutheran on Capitol Hill and The Great St Paul Interfaith Network United for Justice. Staged from Christ Lutheran Church on Capitol Hill, 105 University Avenue West, St. Paul. Sign up at The People.
The overall campaign is comprised of a wide range of community organizations, unions, houses of worship, leaders and local officials. The largest umbrella group, Our Vote Our Future (OVOF), , includes more than 80 organizations. Numerous other groups have taken public stands (and sometimes concerted action). In addition, counties and municipalities have weighed in against the measure as have numerous city and small town newspapers across the state (a little search engine trolling will bring them to your screen) and prominent public figures.
Some organizations have ongoing field operations doing continual phone banking and door knocking.
Other activities have included press conferences, public speaking, addressing congregations, marching holding public educational and cultural events and online video messages. Some organizations have led internal discussions among their members. A variety of lawn signs, buttons and other materials are available, some focused on voter restriction and some including the marriage amendment
TakeAction Minnesota, a major pillar of the coalition, has a well-organized field effort. They also have lawn signs and buttons. TakeAction played a role introducing the language of “voter restriction” (instead of the aseptic “voter id”) to the campaign. On their site look for their TakeAction Tool Kit which offers a number of ways to participate in the final days of the campaign. One of their organizers tells me:
“We need everyone to come out to Get Out The Vote - and to bring their families and friends. We've found that phones are the absolute most effective way to reach voters who need a conversation. To that end, TakeAction is running massive volunteer phonebanks Sunday - Thursday, from 6pm - 9pm, at our office, 705 Raymond Ave St. Paul. From Nov 2 - 6th, we'll be running GOTV phonebanks continuously from 9am - 9pm, all 5 days. We'll have food and guests from across the movement. It's going to be amazing, but we need everyone. Folks can sign up at TakeActionGOTV or on our Facebook page.”
A crew of 500 volunteer phone bankers working three sessions could speak with 50,000 Minnesotans, each of whom has relatives, co-workers and fellow worshipers.
ISAIAH specifically works with Christian denominations through their Faith in Democracy campaign.. They have collaborated on trainings with Jewish Community Action, which also does general outreach operations as well as addressing Jewish congregation. Their web site includes the text of a sermon by Rabbi Esther Adler, of Mount Zion Temple, which clearly ties together the voting fraud arguments with historical perspective on voter exclusion. Union members can check with their locals or councils for union-specific efforts. There have been a number of labor oriented activities although some unions simply channel their support to Our Vote Our Future. The news web site WorkDay Minnesota, is a good source for publicized union plans.
A number of groups are doing concerted campaigning in specific communities or demographic groups. The importance of this can’t be overstated. The deceptive nature of the voting amendment means that some communities need to be addressed in the language of their specific issues in order to make clear what’s at stake. If you are able to make financial contributions I’d take a look at some these community-based organizations. There is, as always, an inverse relationship between skin tone and funding. In other words groups working in communities of color are often the least supported financially while doing some of the most cutting edge work. I’ll end with a list of groups and events.
The internet and social media have proven an effective way to spread the message, with a number of creative projects and lots of individual initiative. Sharing, reposting, tweeting about and otherwise amplifying these efforts will help create the buzz and presence we need to defeat this ugly thing. A roster of Minnesota rap luminaries has been circulating Face the Vote - Turn Out - Say No!, a collaborative music video. Check it out. Pass it on.
There are some other gems to share, but first I have to warn you about some ill-advised ads that have launched publicly but which should be buried as quickly as possible. Our Vote Our Future has produced a set of pieces that promote a confusing and unfortunate message. "The Voter Restriction Amendment might seem like a good idea, but when the Legislature put it on the ballot, they screwed it up.” They complain that the legislature “got it wrong” by not wording it carefully and not exempting military personnel. "Let's send this back, and make them fix it," the urge viewers. They accept as valid the pretense that this is a well-intentioned reform, just sloppily presented. Gone is the historical perspective that makes clear that the problem with this measure is its purpose - wrapped though it is in innocent packaging - which calls for a stake through the heart, not a request for a new version! Please urge OVOF to pull this poorly considered line of advertising. At least make them fix it. Something this strategically naïve and politically self-defeating could only have been produced by highly paid consultants. Not community organizers, certainly. OVOF is the overall coalition for this campaign and can help you figure what’s happening and out how to fit in - the ads should go, though.
Fortunately, there are plenty of nutrient-rich alternatives. The Apprenticeship Organizing Project (OAP) has created a series of videos that are well done and feature authentic community voices. The series includes pieces featuring voices from the Somali, Hmong, Latino, Native American and African American communities. The set, under the umbrella Voices for Voting Rights, is down to earth and politically clear. Their blog is a major information hub and source for events and get out the vote mobilizations..
Another effort, The Big Deal with Voter ID, aims at public participation. Each piece features a Minnesotan telling about an issue close to their heart that would be put in danger by the politicians who would rise in influence with a restricted electorate. (Full disclosure: I had a hand in conceiving and fundraising for this project.) Viewers are encouraged to create and share what their own “big deal” about voter is. They were produced by Line Break Media, which also worked on the OAP series.
More visuals: The Meme Team has been posting a new visual per day on the Voices for Voting Rights Facebook page. (https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.318918964879317.56950.30976793...) They are meant for spreading online and reflect a wide range of angles and creative energy. TakeAction has a set of photo-images that tie today’s fight with past struggles. (https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10151061273538031.441595.18575...) It’s a pity they’re not featured on their website. It’s some of their strongest messaging.
The films and photos are an important way to build a consensus against the amendment. The variety allows you to send appropriate ones to relatives and friends. The messages are great but the most important aspect is that it comes from you. That means a lot more than coming across an ad. Special effort should be made to get the images into networks in rural and outstate Minnesota.
Lawn signs and/or buttons are available at Our Vote Our Future, TakeAction, the Minnesota AFL-CIO, RLM Art Studio (buttons)and other places. There are a lot of different versions out there and I have not been able to find the sources for all of them. Wear it loud! Some folks have been taking pocketsfull of buttons to services and giving them out.
The Land Stewardship Project is focused on its statewide rural base.
ACLU is running phone banks.
Community Action of Minneapolis is doing the crucial work of offering rides to the polls and door knocks on Election Day.
Color the Vote has tons of events going on focused on communities of color
Outfront Minnesota is campaigning and mobilizing against both amendments.
Neighborhoods Organizing for Change is doing community events, phone banks, and doorknocks. They’re one of my high recommendations for donations: they are grounded in grassroots community organizing principles which makes powerful institutions (that control a lot of funding) nervous.
Native Vote Alliance of MN. Statewide group doing GOTV action.
Somali Action Alliance Outreach and educational activities.
Main Street Project Participating in joint organizing projects and producing voting guides in English, Spanish, Somali and Hmong.
Many of these sites have information, stories, videos, talking points and so forth. Keep an eye on them for announcements of specific actions and events. The tools are there, the hands are summoned, the time is now!