NEW JERSEY’S RISING ELECTORATE, READY TO VOTE

 

By Kirk Clay

 

Image representing Cory Booker as depicted in ...
Image via CrunchBase

 

Booker Leads Pallone & Sweeney by More Than 2 to 1 for Lautenberg’s Seat

 

Washington, D.C.  – In a new poll released today by PowerPAC.org, New Jersey Democrats are expressing overwhelming support for Cory Booker as their next U.S. Senator over potential rival candidates Rep. Frank Pallone, Rep. Rob Andrews, and State Senate President Steven Sweeney. By a margin of two to one, New Jersey voters want to elect Cory Booker to the U.S. Senate.

 

PowerPAC’s also poll confirmed that Booker would easily defeat incumbent Senator Frank Lautenberg.  Booker’s advantages hold across geography, populations, and issues, according to N.J. Democratic voters.  “The population of New Jersey closely mirrors the Rising American Electorate of progressive whites, young people, women, and people of color,” said Steve Phillips, Chair of PowerPAC.org, “and this poll shows that the people of New Jersey clearly want Mayor Booker to become Senator Booker in 2014.”

 

Pallone, Sweeney and Andrews, according to the poll, are not very well-known among the state’s registered Democrats, despite Pallone and Andrews having represented NJ in Congress for over two decades each, and Sweeney leading the state’s legislature.   Those registered voters who do have an opinion on 11-term Member of Congress Frank Pallone are split evenly between those with a positive opinion of him and those with a negative opinion.

 

Methodology: PowerPAC.org worked with Merriman River Group to survey 1,170 New Jersey registered Democrats from January 7thto 9th. The margin of error for the overall sample is +/-2.90%.  The survey was conducted through automated telephone interviews.

 

Poll results can be found here. (“PowerPAC Poll on NJ Senate Race (PowerPoint File) PowerPAC”)

 

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Kirk Clay is Senior Advisor at PowerPac

 

PowerPAC is a national social justice advocacy organization focused on expanding democracy by increasing civic participation of people of color.  In 2008, PowerPAC conducted a multi-state, multi-million dollar voter registration and mobilization program in 18 states, including New Jersey, during the 2008 Presidential election.  In 2012, PowerPAC launched PAC+, a new SuperPAC for America’s New Majority. 

 

VOTERS OF COLOR ARE CHANGING AMERICAN POLITICS

By Kirk Clay

President Lyndon B. Johnson and Rev. Dr. Marti...
President Lyndon B. Johnson and Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. meet at the White House, 1966 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Will Voters of Color Take Advantage of Their New Influence In Congress?

 

There are certainly plenty of reasons for America to celebrate the beginning of 2013. First, January is the month we recognize Martin Luther King Jr’s Birthday. Second, January represents a time in American history when President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation.  And finally next month we will witness the second inauguration of the nation’s first African American President.

This inauguration reminds us that in order to realize our dreams, we have to participate!  A few weeks ago voters of color (VOC) joined other Americans to decide how the government will address the most pressing issues of our times.  As the result of dramatic demographic changes, voters of color made the difference in many areas around the country—electing candidates to office who now have the political support to embrace progressive policies. These voters have become the leverage elected officials need to keep campaign promises and support an agenda that will have a far reaching impact on this nation.

 

In short, the next four years is about more than just a mandate. It is about who voted and the role they are going to play in politics. Much like the Tea Party in 2010, the new coalition of progressive whites, Latinos, African Americans, Asians, Native Americans, women, youth and unions are poised to change the way America invests in the economy, extracts and repurposes revenue, and ensures that the government continues to expand democracy to everyone living in America.

 

Also, the 113th Congress will have over 18 new members of color joining other progressive Congress members to shape our legislative process. They’re coming from states with significant VOC populations like California, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, New Mexico, Nevada, Ohio, and Texas.

So how will this affect Congress next year? The majority of the 18 new members are from districts where Democrats received outsized support from progressive whites and VOC in key precincts. This support from voters will help Congress members offset most of the political deficits they could face while compromising and deal making next year. This makes it difficult for the other side to sustain an obstructionist strategy without publically appearing to be “sore losers.”

Moreover, the President has the bully pulpit. Just like in the 2012 campaign, the new coalition of progressive voters makes it possible to expand the political map at critical points in the legislative cycle. For example, President Obama’s support in California, Colorado, Florida, Nevada, and New Mexico will be a legislative firewall during the immigration negotiations. Simply put, a party will not survive in this new political landscape if it loses favorability from VOC by a 3 to 1 margin.

In the end, we have to remind ourselves that all politics are local.  Any party that had success reaching unique pockets of voters during the 2012 campaign will have an advantage in 2013. They can easily overwhelm the other side by amplifying this new coalition’s influence. All it would take is a combination of traditional civic engagement tactics with 21st century data-driven technology. This strategy of micro-targeting voters by specific issues was used in Ohio and proved to be clutch—it delivered a powerful victory for the progressive coalition. For example, the VOC vote share increased to 19% of the 2012 electorate from 16% in 2008.

It’s time to get ready for the New Year, the new Congress, the new coalition of progressive voters and another historic moment. On January 21st America honors Martin Luther King, Jr. as the world witnesses the inauguration of President Obama. It will also be a defining moment for people of color. For the first time since the passage of the Voting Rights Act, their votes had a profound influence on the political landscape of America. We now have a President who has the opportunity to govern with a more forward set of strategies. This makes it easier for us to support the policies we believe in. That’s popping the clutch.

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Kirk Clay is Senior Advisor at PowerPac

TREND SETTING ELECTION FOR VOTERS OF COLOR, NEW STRATEGIES THAT WORK

Purple America: Voter Density (1960-2004)
Purple America: Voter Density (1960-2004) (Photo credit: methodshop.com)

By Kirk Clay

A Little Capital Goes A Long Way, Investing In Voters of Color Is A Sure Bet

The question leading up to the 2012 presidential election was whether or not the voter turnout from President Obama’s coalition of progressive whites, Latinos, African Americans, Asians, Native Americans, women, youth and unions would be at the same level as in 2008. The answer is “YES!”

Judging from the preliminary numbers, it is clear that there are a number of important states and districts in which progressive whites and Voters of Color (VOC) helped to decide election results. This election cycle, we witnessed the effect of expanding the electorate. Imagine what could happen in 2013, 2014, and 2016 if we continue to push every eligible voter to register and turnout? We could see major changes in Congress as well as state legislatures.

No longer should we portray progressive whites and VOC as incidental to the broader sphere of American politics. Their influences on the election results are validated by evidence-based demographic data which clearly demonstrates that consistently high VOC turnout levels produce reliable results. It’s also unmistakable that these turnout levels are connected to well-funded systematic political structure powered by evidence based data.

These voters lit the torch that led the Democrats to victories in races for Congress, Senate, and the White House. This isn’t just happenstance. With adequate resources, organizations began to connect the dots in late 2010. They pushed vintage campaign models for civic engagement into the 21st Century by building powerful political machines which utilized state-of-the art technology.

It is time for both parties to recognize that the future is here. The old strategy of “securing the independent voters in the last two weeks” did not pan out for many candidates this election.  It seems that the strategy of expanding the electorate to include more progressive whites and VOC proved to be a much more durable foundation for building a coalition rather than relying on swing voters. President Obama dropped independents in most states like Ohio, Nevada, and New Mexico but won each state with 50%, 52%, and 53% of the vote respectfully.  Even when his opponent began to gain momentum after the first debate, the President never trailed in these key states.

We believe that the pending certified results will show that voters of color made up 25% of the electorate nationally and at least 19% in 27 states– a dramatic increase from 2008. For the first time, Latinos were 10% of all voters and supported the President by 71%; African Americans were 13% of all voters and 93% voted for the incumbent, and Asians were 3% of all voters and well over 72% backed the Democrats.

On the ground, the political environment was similar to 2006 when wedge issues became a way to contrast the candidates. Just like in 2006, this strategy seems to have backfired on the GOP.  Comparable to the 2006 election, the Democrats gained a foothold in the Senate by winning 80% of the competitive Senate races.  They defeated moderate Senate Republicans in Hawaii, New Mexico and Virginia. They successfully defended gains from 2006 in Missouri, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Democrats won a majority of all votes cast in House races, gained eight seats in the House, gained 170 more state legislative seats nationwide and took over eight state legislative chambers including complete control of Colorado.

At the state level, progressive whites and VOC provided the momentum to help Democrats win seven of eight tossup House races in California and all three tossups in Arizona. Also, they gave the Democrats key wins in CA-36, FL-9, FL-26, and TX-23.

Nevada provides a good example of the impact that Latinos, African Americans and Asians had as the result of investing in their increased civic participation.  The state already gained a congressional seat and an Electoral College vote as the result of the 2010 U.S. census which pointed to 28% of the citizen voting age population being VOC. Voters of color represented 26% of the electorate in 2008, increased to 29% in 2010 and jumped to 33% in 2012. Census data shows that places like North Las Vegas grew by 87% to 216,961 residents of which over 46,000 were key VOC.

There is no doubt that the fundamentals of elections have changed. The beneficiaries of the civil rights movement have finally gained a foothold on political equality, uniting their collective guiding beliefs. The idea that “you have to be a friend to get a friend” will continue to reveal opportunities to work together towards creating an inclusive social, cultural, and economic apparatus. The fact is, if we invest political resources in this coalition, America will experience a positive return. That’s popping the clutch.

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Kirk Clay is Senior Advisor at PowerPac

YOUNG VOTERS OF COLOR, DRIVING HOME THE FACTS OF LIFE

By Kirk Clay

Regiones fisiográficas de Ohio.
Regiones fisiográficas de Ohio. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Young Voters of Color Could Be the Sweet Spot in Ohio, Virginia and New Jersey

Last week I had the privilege of keynoting the Toledo NAACP’s 99th Freedom Fund Dinner. The event attracted tons of media and more than 700 attendees.  In the audience sat Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur, Mayor Michael Bell, loads of council persons, and plenty of candidates. It was a tremendous occasion and it felt good being home talking to hard working people who live outside of the beltway.

While in Toledo I was able catch up with a number of old friends, including a buddy from high school who I played ball with. We talked about our children and the “good old days.” He teased me about the 1964 Rambler I drove.  We laughed about how the passenger side floorboard had rusted out and no one wanted to ride shotgun when it rained. We talked about the places we would go and how owning our first car gave us a sense of empowerment.

He mentioned how Ohio’s young workers have and always will rely on the auto industry. As voters, they know what it means to have family members working over fifty-five hours a week on a Jeep Liberty line in Toledo.  Maybe that’s why they’re so disappointed about politicians falsely attacking an American institution like Jeep. The auto industry supports 1 of every 8 jobs in Ohio and many of these jobs are important for young job-seekers.

After talking with him, I started to wonder what the long term effects of their Jeep attacks would be. Would they widen the gap with young Voters of Color (VOC) on Election Day? Would it solidify the Democrat’s lead in Ohio for 2012 and also become a hurdle for the GOP in New Jersey and Virginia next year?

Looking at Gallup’s latest study, it seems that we are on track to have a similar electorate as 2008 where the youth made up 18% of the vote. As witnessed on the state level in 2008, an energized young VOC electorate gave President Obama the victory in Ohio, Virginia, and New Jersey. This could be clutch for the Democrats in 2012 and 2013.

While voters under 30 were 17% of the electorate for both Ohio and New Jersey in 2008, that number dropped for New Jersey to 9% in 2009. The same is true for young voters in Virginia; they were 21% of the electorate in 2008 and only 10% in 2009.

Why? A substantial number of young VOC decided to stay home and as a result the Democrats were unsuccessful in retaining the 2008 momentum in 2009.

A recent Harvard Institute of Politics study demonstrates the possible impact for 2012 and 2013. The President leads his challenger among 18-29 year old African Americans 91%-6% and Latinos 73%-13%. More importantly, 59% of African Americans and 31% of Latinos are enthusiastic about voting on November 6.  Young voters trust President Obama more than his challenger to deal with “major issues” like immigration reform 45% – 25%. Among young women, Romney loses on issues of concern 53% – 20%.

These numbers are going to be even more critical in November of 2013 for state gubernatorial races. In places like New Jersey where Democrats currently outnumber Republicans by 10 points, 59% of voters under 30 now say that they will not vote for Governor Christie. Note that VOC are 31% of New Jersey’s citizen voting age population and they comprised 28% of the electorate in 2008.

Adding to that, Hudson county population grew by 4% to 634,266 and Jersey City population increased 3% to 247,597. This is a solid majority Latino, African American, and Asian American city and has well over 95,000 key VOC.  Therefore, conservatives may have a tough time matching their ’09 bump with policies that center around the “virtues of selfishness.”  In these blue-collar states, economic patriotism is multifaceted and far more complex than a bumper sticker policy.

Looking deeper I began to realize how young people everywhere are positively impacted by the automobile industry. For many of us in Toledo, owning a car provided the sense of independence we needed to become responsible and effective citizens. If you were lucky enough to have a family member who worked for General Motors, you not only benefited from their labor but their product as well.

Plus, watching our family members go to work every day gave us a sense of pride and passion for building things with our own hands. That’s probably why the auto bailout is so important for young voters in Ohio and other states.

It’s always a momentous occasion when a young person drives for the first time as well as votes for the first time. For many young people, these are two of the first meaningful investments they will make in their own future and independence. Not to mention that buying a car is one of the largest purchases made by young people.

As Americans we believe that our politicians should match that seriousness in word as well as deed. They should defend our institutions as well as our democratic traditions. That’s popping the clutch.

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Kirk Clay is Senior Advisor at PowerPac

THE TALE OF TWO ELECTORATES, OHIO AND NEW JERSEY TELLTALE SIGNS

Voters of Color May Impact New Jersey’s 2013 Governor’s Race

English: The African American Museum in Cleveland
English: The African American Museum in Cleveland (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By Kirk Clay

Holy Toledo, Ohio has become a bellwether for American political trends. Can you believe that the President has solidified a lead in the once elusively red state? As the saying goes, so goes Ohio so goes the nation. All it took was a modern day “Lunch Pail / Hard Hat Coalition” which includes progressive Whites, Latinos, African Americans, Asians, Native Americans, Women, Young Voters, and Unions. Amazingly the President has never trailed Romney in the buckeye state.

Recently, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie tried his hand at helping the GOP connect with Ohioans. It didn’t work.  It seems that the re-elect’s recent endorsement from New Jersey vanguard Bruce Springsteen connected with blue-collar voters better than the “Christie Ohio Tour.” This highlights the impact this coalition will have in November 2012 and 2013.

As this election season winds down, Chris Christie is at the top of the list of candidates who will feel the impact of November’s results when their names appear on the ballot in 2013. For starters, the presidential election has pitted Christie’s regressive “47%” style of conservative policies against a surging “all-inclusive” progressive style of polices. Voters aren’t buying it. They don’t trust Romney and next year voters are going to be suspicious of all Romney supporters. His positions on issues like Obamacare, Medicare and the auto bailout will linger through 2013.

These kinds of positions worked for Christie in 2009 before voters had a chance to notice the difference in priorities between the two parties. Now, we are starting to see the effects on voters in Ohio and New Jersey. Also, it’s fair to say that Christie’s highly visible role in this Presidential election may have exposed possible weaknesses that could damage his re-election bid. A recent poll from Eagleton Institute of Politics underscored how serious of an issue this may be for Christie. According to the study:

• Close to 57% of New Jersey voters support the Obamacare court decision;
• independents are in support 56% to 35%;
• many Voter of Color (VOC) including 77% of African Americans support the decision;
• 61% of young people were happy law was upheld;
• and 69% of New Jersey residents reject the GOP’s plan to voucherize Medicare.

Adding to that, 47% of voters say that it is time for a new Governor.  Christie’s re-election support with independents is down 5 points from August.  Meanwhile, the same poll shows his unfavorable number among all voters up two points. It’s telling that women only give him a 43% positive with 59% of voters under 30 saying they will not vote for him. To top it off he has lost support from workers earning between $100k and $150k with 51% wanting to vote for someone else.

What are the dynamics at play in New Jersey and why is the Governor having such a hard time locking in New Jersey voters? Political experts are beginning to notice a philosophical and political trend that may give us an idea. It seems that voters in Springsteen’s New Jersey are fundamentally different from Christie’s. This holds true for Ohio as well. It’s not incidental that voters in both states embrace policies supporting working class men and women and reject policies that center around the “virtues of selfishness.” Adding to the mix, there are sizable shifts in New Jersey’s population creating substantial demographic trends.

In particular, Governor Christie received 9% of the African American vote and 32% of the Latino vote in 2009 when he flipped a blue state to red.  This was a significant factor given that in 2005 the Democrat candidate won 98% and 68% of the African American and Latino vote respectively. We see the impact of voters of color (VOC) when you look at Middlesex County where the Democrat candidate was defeated for the first time in decades 47% to 45%. Note that the population in that county, which includes New Brunswick, has grown 8% and is now 10% African American, 18% Latino, and 21% Asian Pacific Islander.

This dynamic played a significant role in New Jersey where VOC were 25% of the electorate in 2009 but 30% in 2010. Census data shows cities like New Brunswick growing 2.3% to 55,181 and now having well over 14,000 key VOC on the voter rolls.

Looking forward to November 2013, the fundamentals are beginning to take shape. Though no one can predict what will happen in the next year, one thing is true — New Jersey’s electorate has already begun to demonstrate the impact of their changing demographics. Therefore, any candidate with an effective strategy to embrace the heart of the “Lunch Pail / Hard Hat Coalition” will find themselves well positioned to shock the political world.

There is no doubt that Latino and African American voters will impact this and future elections. The truth is, they have always been significant threads in the political fabric of this nation and continue to become more valuable every election. That’s probably the best part of our democracy; our collective vote represents our guiding beliefs. Everyone has one ballot, it doesn’t matter where you came from, your zip code or how you got here. We all are worthy of respect and deserve the right to cast and have our ballots counted. Likewise, putting self-interest before compassion is not an American value, it’s selfish. Being selfish doesn’t just prove that you lack a sense of empathy; it proves that you lack common sense as well. That’s popping the CLUTCH.

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Kirk Clay is Senior Advisor at PowerPac

WHAT IS THE ECONOMIC IMPACT OF MEDICARE ON SENIOR VOTERS OF COLOR?

voting day in a small town
voting day in a small town (Photo credit: Muffet)

 By Kirk Clay

Senior Voters of Color Want Solutions for Medicare Not Gridlock

 

Choosing a vice president is the biggest exercise in judgment a candidate performs. It offers a rare view of the candidate’s core values and beliefs. Just recently, the GOP Presidential nominee chose a running mate from Congress that vows to repeal Obamacare and drafted a budget which includes a proposed change in Medicare. As a result, we are debating policies that would impact the daily lives of our seniors.

Of the 47 million American’s who are covered by Medicare or Medicare Advantage, the elderly make up the majority of our nation’s most vulnerable who depend on the red, white, and blue Medicare card. This economic policy has significant real life implications.  Before it’s inception in 1965, one in three seniors lived in poverty, many having squandered their life savings on costly medical care. Today, only one in six elderly people are in poverty due to medical cost. Clearly, Medicare has made a difference.

As noted by many political experts, the senior voting block is one of the most educated and active constituencies in politics. Therefore, this debate provides us with an exceptional opportunity to have a conversation about the need for a balanced approach to America’s health and financial security.

Further, this positions Medicare as one of the best issues for debating the role and size of Government. Simply put, if a candidate can’t explain to our seniors how shrinking or maintaining the current size and role of government would work, maybe they shouldn’t be elected.

A recent study from AARP underscored how serious of an issue Medicare will be for senior voters as they head to the polls—especially voters of color.  According to the study:

●          Two-Thirds of Latino and Three-Fourths of African American senior voters plan to rely on Medicare even more due to the state of the economy.

●          49% of Latinos and 35% of African Americans are not confident that Medicare will be there for them and future generations.

●          90% of Latinos and 97% of African Americans say the next President and Congress need to strengthen Medicare for future generations.

●          97% of Latinos and 98% of African Americans believe Republicans and Democrats need to come together to find a solution to strengthen Social Security and Medicare.

To get a better sense about the significance of Medicare, I talked with my Grandma. She confirmed the study, “Baby, these politicians will tell you anything to get elected. The truth is, I now get a number of benefits after Obamacare.”

She reminded me of how the family struggled to help her pay prescription costs until she started receiving the discounts. “Remember how you were shocked at how low the bill was last week? I think it’s called closing the doughnut hole.” We also talked about the fact that seniors now get free wellness visits and the limit on out of pocket costs for things like co-pays. She shot back “how will it work if they repeal Obamacare?”

I couldn’t answer that, because I haven’t seen a healthcare plan from Congress. They launched “A Pledge to America” after Conservatives took control of the House in 2010 but nothing happened. No wonder this Congress has the lowest approval in history with only 10% of Americans approving the job they’ve done in the last two gridlocked years. According to the AARP study, among senior VOC 57% of Latinos and 90% of African Americans approve of the job that President Obama is doing. By contrast, more than 62% of Latinos and 67% of African American senior voters disapprove of the job Congress is doing.

That’s why it’s so interesting that the GOP would bring a leader of the “Do-nothing” Congress into the race for the White House. That sentiment is backed by our seniors–64% of Latino and 65% of African American seniors believe their personal economic circumstances have been negatively affected by political gridlock. Also 88% of Latinos and 93% of African Americans believe Medicare is critical to maintaining their health.

Those two numbers may indicate the reason the GOP presidential candidate is having such a hard time connecting to voters on a personal level. A reported 74% of Latinos and 80% of African American seniors say “learning the candidates’ plans on strengthening and reforming” Medicare would help them to decide who to vote for. Yet 48% of Latinos and 39% of African American seniors say Candidates are not doing a good job explaining their plans for strengthening and reforming Medicare. To them, if you don’t have a comprehensive healthcare plan, people may take it to mean you’re hiding something.

Is grandma right? Are VOC in swing states paying attention to this debate? Will American voters base their vote on trust? Are there enough progressive Whites, Latinos, African Americans, Asians, Native Americans, Unions, Seniors, and Young Voters to break the stalemate in Washington?

To figure this out we should look to states like Nevada where the state gained a Congressional seat and an electoral vote after the 2010 census. VOC now make up 28% of the citizen voting age population and 60% of them are registered to vote. VOC represented 26% of the electorate in 2008 and that number jumped to 29% in 2010, a Tea Party wave year. That year, Latinos represented 16% of the vote share and 69% voted for the progressive Senate candidate. While North Las Vegas grew by 87% to 216,961 and now have over 46,000 “key” VOC in the area, it will take plenty of resources to engage this electorate.

Note that, 88% of Nevada’s baby boomers disapprove of the job Congress is doing and 93% believe that Republicans and Democrats need to come together to find a solution to strengthen Social Security and Medicare for future generations.

For over 46 years, Medicare has made a difference for millions of Americans. It is one government program that has worked so well that people don’t think it’s a government program at all. Many seniors say that “if I didn’t have Medicare, doctor bills could wipe me out and put a burden on my kids”. Paying six thousand dollars more for insurance may not sound like much, but if you’re a senior citizen living on a fixed income and you’re already counting every penny, $6,000 is serious money.

As my grandma and I continued to talk, I realized that she didn’t care about who is credited for building Medicare. All that matters is that it works and she has access to it when she needs it. She reminds me that we all stand on the shoulders of our parents, grandparents, and great grandparents. They taught us that America works best when we all help each other become successful. A successful society is built on a nucleus of hard working, talented, and compassionate leaders that are trustworthy. The thing is “you can’t buy trust, you earn it.” That’s popping the clutch.

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Kirk Clay is Senior Advisor at PowerPac

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