DEMOCRACY IS THE GREATEST SYSTEM OF GOVERNMENT; LET’S EXPAND THE ELECTORATE

By Kirk Clay

 

We All Want To Do the Responsible Thing

 

If you noticed a person pushing a car up a hill would you help them? What if it was in the sweltering heat and that person was somehow different from you? Would it matter if they were a Democrat or Republican?

No-excuse early voting in U.S. states, as of S...
No-excuse early voting in U.S. states, as of September 2007. in-person and postal in-person only postal only none (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It didn’t for my baseball teammates in Toledo. Once while coming home from practice, we noticed a man having problems with his car.  He started to push his car towards a slight declining hill.  My teammates and I didn’t hesitate to lend a hand.  We asked if he needed help. Before he could answer us, the car started rolling backwards. We didn’t wait for his answer. We all got behind the vehicle and began to push the car back towards the hill.

 

We didn’t know much about fixing cars in those days but we knew that if the vehicle was pushed in the right direction and someone turned the ignition, the engine would start. That is called popping the clutch. So, that’s just what we did. We all pushed and once the car began to pick up speed while rolling down the hill, we didn’t care which one of us jumped into the driver’s seat to pop the clutch — as long as we got the vehicle working again.

 

Voting reminds me of that car. It is one of most important vehicles that Americans have for getting from one place to another — or for influencing the policies that affect our lives. Therefore, when people need help voting, we should make every effort to help them because it makes our democracy work better.

 

I wish that was the logic behind Ohio’s new law which restricts early, in-person voting. The new law sets the Friday evening before election-day as the deadline for voters to early vote in-person. This law turns a blind eye to the thousands of voters who historically vote during the three days before Election Day. It dampens the impact of early-vote campaigns by many organizations who take advantage of that last weekend to urge voters to vote early. Ohio is one of 32 states that allow voters to cast an early ballot by mail or in person without an excuse.  This increases civic participation and strengthens our democracy.

 

As we know, voting early helps to ease the long lines on Election Day — something that makes headlines every election cycle. In 2000, the lines were so long in many places around the country that precincts closed before voters could cast their ballot.  Nearly a million voters—close to 3% of all registered voters—had this experience.  This led to legal contests in St. Louis which affected the outcome of the Missouri’s U.S. Senate race.  By closing the polling places before everyone in line was able to vote, many voters were disenfranchised. Voters who made extraordinary efforts to go to the polls were denied ballots due to no fault of their own.

 

Each of the nearly 200,000 polling places nationwide will handle about 500 voters on Election Day. Since we only have about 700,000 workers at the polls, early voting is an effective way to make sure that voters are not disenfranchised.   In 2008, more than 1.7 million Ohio voters cast ballots early – close to 30% of all ballots.  For 2012, Election Day is predicted to be more taxing as America gears up for record-breaking voter –turnout.  This is especially of concern for voters of color (VOC).

 

According to the National Urban League’s “The Hidden Swing Voters” report, Voters of Color (VOC) could turnout in an even higher rate. The study proposes that if African-American registration rises to 78.3% we could see 3 million more African American voters in 2012.

 

The Latino community grew to 50 million in 2010 while the Asian American – Pacific Islander (AAPI) population increased to 5.2% of the national population. If those demographic trends materialize, VOC could make up more than 23% of the eligible electorate.

 

In swing states like Colorado, Nevada, North Carolina and Virginia, there is a significant VOC population. These states were GOP strongholds until recently. Also, each state turned blue as the demographics began to change. There is strong evidence that political geography is the reason that Democrats improved their 2000 performance by more than seven points in each state. Moreover, experts believe that Virginia’s and Nevada’s recent purple propensities are powered by the 55% and 71% AAPI growth since 2000.

 

Population growth is an essential factor in predicting turnout. The Ohio law is based on the misconception that VOC will not be 17% of the electorate in 2012. As an unintended consequence, Ohio may disenfranchise tens of thousands of voters. Worst yet, this will turn a blind eye to the profound and chronic problems of race and discrimination in voting practices.

 

Our ultimate goal should be to pass laws that expand democracy to every American. It’s clear that we need a coalition of compassionate Whites, Latinos, African Americans, Asians, Native Americans, Women, Unions, and Young Voters acting together to widen the circle of freedom so that the American promise of liberty and justice for all is realized by all. That’s popping the clutch.

 

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Kirk Clay is Senior Advisor at PowerPAC

 

 

MICRO TARGETING THE HEARTLAND, IT’S A POLITICAL JUMP BALL

The Ohio Statehouse in Columbus where the Ohio...
Image via Wikipedia

By Kirk Clay

Analyzing Ohio’s Voters and Making Final Four Predictions

I have to admit, I love it when the March Madness season comes around. There is something about completing bracket sheets for both the Women’s and Men’s NCAA Basketball Tournaments and developing a strategy for my favorite teams to go all the way. The best part is identifying all of the opportunities for “cinderellas” or “underdogs” to win games they are not supposed to win.

As we get closer to the final four teams and realize that there are simply too many long shots for our favorite teams to survive the entire tournament, we scrap the entire bracket and start all over again. The trick is to gather as many statistics as possible and choose the best path forward. Sometimes, we have to follow our heart and go with our gut instincts.

Watching the excitement of the “First Four” match up in Dayton reminded me of Ohio’s recent “Big Four” electoral impact events. I began to ask myself, “what did Representatives Kaptur, Kucinich, Schmidt, and the “Underdog” Congressional hopeful Joyce Beatty all have in common?” They all were affected by Congress’ abysmal 10% approval rating.

Does the results of their Congressional bids reflect the voters’ gut instincts? Clearly, there is a sentiment that Washington’s obstructive behavior–like the current fiasco over judicial vacancies, the stalled transportation bill, and the assault on women’s healthcare–will not be rewarded in 2012.

As our economy continues to recover and U.S. manufacturing is becoming this years “Cinderella story,” voters are becoming hopeful. Toledo added about 1,800 manufacturing jobs last year and more are coming this year with General Motors and Chrysler committing to hiring over 1,600 people by 2013. Correspondingly, unemployment has fallen to 7.9% and manufacturing now comprises 18.3 percent of Ohio’s economy. We now see that middle and working-class voters are rejecting the old strategy of “wining by demonizing the opposite party on a bumper sticker.” In November, they may counter 2010’s dysfunctional hate wave with a wave of “economically coherent” leaders.

To win the heartland, politicians have to revive Franklin Roosevelt’s “Lunch Pail / Hard Hat Coalition.” In fact, a modern coalition which includes progressive Whites, Latinos, African Americans, Asians, Native Americans, Unions, and Young Voters is the best path forward.

Remember the 2006 elections when Governorships and Senate seats flipped to blue in Ohio, Colorado, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Missouri?  That was the “Lunch Pail Coalition” in action. A significant factor in the election outcomes were Voters of Color (VOC). For example, look at Ohio’s Cuyahoga County.  That county, which includes Cleveland, was 12% of the vote share while VOC were 14% of the electorate.

This dynamic has played a significant role in Ohio where African American mayors have been elected in the seven major cities of Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati, Toledo, Dayton, Youngstown, and Mansfield. Ohio voters have always been able to come together through a “Lunch Pail / Hard Hat Coalition” and elect candidates of color.

Looking forward to November 2012, I remain hopeful.  Although the 2010 census data shows Ohio losing two Electoral College votes, cities like Columbus grew by 10.6% to 787,033. This increase gives Columbus more than 145,000 “key” Voters of Color. That means the Democratic Primary winner Joyce Beatty, who is the first African American Congressperson from central Ohio to make it to the primary, can win in November.

Beatty has already demonstrated the impact of the “Lunch Pail Coalition” in Ohio’s new 3rd Congressional District by mobilizing the second largest VOC voting block of Ohio’s sixteen congressional districts. Her strategy to embrace the heart of the coalition by targeting high performing VOC precincts like the Southside, Northeast, and Eastside gave her strong voter support in precincts like 35-B, 17-F and 28-E. What’s more, Beatty won all but one of the twenty highest-turnout precincts in the district and received 15,231 votes district wide.

As the big dance towards November begins, it’s important to keep in mind that middle and working-class voters are not interested in obstruction by Congress. Why should they?  Ohio has increased its manufacturing jobs by about 4 percent since June, 2009. That’s 24,600 jobs for working families. Imagine how many more new jobs could be created if Congress worked together?  As Beatty said on election night “our voice will be part of doing new things.” We want our political leaders to get something done.

I agree.  Voters have little patience for bumper sticker solutions. We always root for the underdogs, even if that means voting for a slate of bracket busters. That’s popping the clutch.

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Kirk Clay is Senior Advisor at PowerPAC