Increasing participation in the political process is at the heart of Bastrop Interfaith’s mission as Election Day approaches.
A nonpartisan, multi-issue organization, Bastrop Interfaith is part of a larger organization called Central Texas Interfaith, which works to address public issues that affect members of different communities.
Made up of community institutions like churches, neighborhood associations and public school groups, Bastrop Interfaith pulls together community members to address common issues.
A large part of this effort, according to Edie Clark, a Bastrop County resident and leader with Bastrop Interfaith, is developing leaders within local communities so people have the skills and opportunities to engage with public officials about salient topics.
This year, that means informing as many county residents as possible about the issues at hand for the election, and where different local and state candidates stand on them.
[County Map Courtesy of Bastrop County]
Bastrop County Nonprofit Works to Increase Voter Participation in Low Turnout Area, Austin American Statesman [pdf]
Voting is now underway at a torrid pace, and soon we will know the much-anticipated results of our pending election. Still, we hear misguided threats and attempts to cast doubt on the election process and how well ballots will be counted.
As faith leaders of the Arizona Interfaith Network who lead congregations that claim active members of all political persuasions, we want to remind all citizens that it is important to vote, regardless of your party affiliation, and to vote with confidence.
We are impressed with both the safeguards and security measures they have put in place, especially provisions for voting during the pandemic. This includes hiring and training additional poll workers, securing safe locations for voting, and preparing for the early tabulation of mail-in ballots, currently underway.
Cooperation of citizens, candidates, and parties is crucial. We implore everyone, whatever your political leaning, to trust the process. Attempts to harass, intimidate, or otherwise suppress the vote of fellow citizens will not be tolerated. These would be an affront to the rule of law, and we will be among the first to denounce such behaviors.
[Photo Credit: Ross D. Franklin/Arizona Capitol Times]
If you live in Travis or Harris counties, thanks to the governor, you might have to venture a lot farther to drop off your mail-in ballots for the upcoming election. By proclamation, Gov. Greg Abbott limited mail-in ballot drop-off locations to just one per county and is allowing parties to place poll watchers inside to keep an eye on the operation.
Julio Román, a Dallas resident, spent some of his Saturday passing out nearly a hundred voter registration cards to people in the city. He said he feels Abbott’s proclamation is just a ploy to suppress the vote.
Román is with Dallas Area Interfaith, a grassroots coalition focused on improving communities in the DFW area. Throughout the pandemic, the group has been helping immigrant communities pay their rent, conducting food drives and encouraging people to vote.
He said he thinks the proclamation will disproportionately affect the working class, as well as minority populations who live far away from their county’s only drop-off location.
This is why Jenkins said that it is imperative people make plans to vote. “Decide where, when, and how you will cast your ballot,” he said.
[Photo Credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images]
...In Iowa, it’s illegal for the state to translate official government forms. including anything election-related. This makes it really hard for non-fluent English speakers in Iowa to gather official voting information.
Iowa’s "English-only" law, as it is known by some, dates back to 1918 after World War I. Republican Gov. William Harding signed the Babel Proclamation into law, which made English the only language legally permitted in the state. It was intended to limit the German language in schools and other public spaces.
Tun said this law scares her community. She said sometimes they are too afraid to vote. They are worried they will get in trouble if they make a mistake in the voting process.
But people who translate the forms disagree. Jan Flora and Terry Potter of A Mid-Iowa Organizing Strategy (AMOS) said it is especially true this year. Flora translates voter forms into Spanish and Potter distributes them to other organizations throughout the state.
“If we cannot translate that, maybe we’re going to lose our voters…Yea, a lot of voters," Tun said.
She said the state has a responsibility to Iowans, whether they speak Spanish, Burmese, Karen or anything else.
[Photo Credit: Tiffany Tertipes, Unsplash]
Lost In Translation: How Iowa's 'English-Only' Law Affects Some Voters , Iowa Public Radio [pdf]
COPS/Metro Among Heavy Hitters Called By Mayor to Win Voter Approval of Coronavirus Economic Recovery Plan
Less than two months before early voting begins, Mayor Ron Nirenberg has called in several heavy hitters to steer his campaign to use a sales tax to help residents get back to work after they lost their jobs to the coronavirus.
The campaign, known as “Build SA,” faces the daunting task of figuring out how to break through a noisy November election to convince San Antonio voters to put more than $150 million toward a still loosely defined proposal that city officials estimate would help 40,000 residents get higher-paying jobs....
The mayor has assembled a trio of co-chairs to lead the effort: Blakely Fernandez, a partner at law firm Bracewell and former Alamo Colleges trustee; Linda Chavez-Thompson, former executive vice president of the national AFL-CIO and a former VIA Metropolitan Transit board member; and Sonia Rodriguez, a leader of the local grassroots organization COPS/Metro.
[Photo Credit: KENS5]
Exceeding their turnout goal by 50%, more than 1,500 leaders from Texas IAF organizations assembled online and in (socially distanced) watch parties to launch a Get Out The Vote drive, pledging to deliver 200,000 voters this fall to support a nonpartisan agenda for change.
Declared the Rev. Dr. Rhenel Johnson, pastor of Abundant Life United Methodist Church and leader with TMO: "Here today are the prophets like Moses who are called to set the people free. Set them free from slave jobs, set them free from not having access to mental health for our adult and children, set them free from police brutality and set them free from inequality! The Texas IAF network is ready to take to the streets and sign up voters to our agenda of issues and March them to the polls starting October 19 for early voting through election day on November 3rd."
Bishops, clergy, lay leaders, and community leaders from 10 Texas IAF organizations ratified an agenda that includes COVID-19 recovery, workforce development, healthcare access, immigration, and police reform. Speakers included: Catholic Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller (Archdiocese of San Antonio), Auxiliary Bishop Gregory Kelly (Diocese of Dallas), Rabbi Alan Freedman (Temple Beth Shalom in Austin), Danielle Alan of Harvard University, Paul Osterman of MIT, Luke Bretherton of Duke University, Charles Sabel of the Economic Policy Institute, and Teresa Ghilarducci and Richard McGahey of the Schwartz Center for Economic Policy Analysis.
Similar statewide “Sign Up-Take Charge/Get Out The Vote” campaigns by the Network of Texas IAF Organizations have netted over $2 Billion in infrastructure funding for colonias along the border, tens of millions for workforce development for living wage jobs, over $50 Million for public school parent training and staff development, expansion of CHIP and Medicaid at the state level, and living wage measures in cities, counties, and school districts across the state.
Over the past three months Texas IAF organizations have focused on COVID-19 recovery, leveraging over $250,000,000 in rental/utility assistance and $100,000,000 in workforce development at the city and county levels, in addition to statewide and local moratoriums for utility cutoffs and evictions.
“We've won hundreds of millions in immediate COVID-19 economic relief, our organizations are now focusing on longer term workforce and economy recovery strategies brought about by the pandemic,” said Rev. Minerva Camarena-Skeith, a leader with St. Michael’s Episcopal and Central Texas Interfaith. “This includes long-term training for in-demand living wage jobs, reducing underlying health care disparities, and education investments like internet connectivity for students from low-income communities to bridge the digital divide.”
Leaders pledged to identify 5,700 leaders in house meetings and small group gatherings this summer and prepare them to each deliver 36 voters to the polls this fall.
When the October 2019 gubernatorial election yielded a voter turnout of only 46%, clergy from Together Louisiana grew concerned. Their concerns only grew when they learned that turnout from low income and predominantly minority neighborhoods was 17% lower than in 2016.
Says The Rev. Shawn Moses Anglim, pastor of the First Grace Methodist Church in mid-city New Orleans: “When major blocs of people aren’t participating, that worries me. Whatever their reasons, it’s not good for the country, it’s not good for the state, and it’s not good for New Orleans.”
Reaching out to pastors from diverse denominations, he convened a meeting to decide what to do. Congregations in Baton Rouge, Alexandria and Shreveport held similar nonpartisan gatherings.
With help from Together Louisiana and the Power Coalition, the ministers put together envelopes to give to institutional leaders that held the names of about 30 voters who cast ballots in the 2016 presidential election but didn’t participate in the previous month's primary. Leaders were commissioned to personally reach out to each of those voters and ask them to participate in the November election.
This nonpartisan strategy appears to have been effective at increasing voter turnout. Turnout on the first day of early voting yielded the highest ever -- about 2,500 more than in 2016. Overall turnout across the state increased from 46% to almost 51%, ensuring that more citizens were involved in choosing who would be governor. In Shreveport, Alexandria, Baton Rouge and New Orleans, voter turnout increased by an even greater amount (see right graphic above) with green circles indicating increased precinct-level turnout between the runoff and the election, and the size of the circles indicating the number.
Turnout increases were leveraged face-to-face and conversation-by-conversation -- between Together Louisiana leaders and citizens who don't always vote -- with extraordinary results.
[Photo Credit: (left) Bill Feig, The Advocate]
Turnout Increase Map, Together Louisiana
When the recent gubernatorial campaign yielded a reduced voter turnout of only 46% -- and no clear winner -- clergy from Together Louisiana grew concerned, particularly when they learned that turnout from low income and predominantly minority neighborhoods was 17% lower than in 2016.
Says The Rev. Shawn Moses Anglim, pastor of the First Grace Methodist Church in mid-city New Orleans: “When major blocs of people aren’t participating that worries me. Whatever their reasons, it’s not good for the country, it’s not good for the state, and it’s not good for New Orleans.”
Reaching out to pastors from diverse denominations, he convened a meeting to decide what to do. Congregations in Baton Rouge, Alexandria and Shreveport held similar gatherings.
With help from Together Louisiana and the Power Coalition, the ministers put together envelopes to give to institutional leaders that held the names of about 30 voters who cast ballots in the 2016 presidential election but didn’t participate in the previous month's primary. Leaders were commissioned to reaching out personally to each of those voters and asking them to participate.
The nonpartisan strategy appeared to be working, with the first day of early voting yielding the highest turnout ever -- about 2,500 more than in 2016.
At a Baton Rouge event last week organized by Together Louisiana, representatives of various community groups stood in a line to announce, one after another, how many volunteers they had and how many voters they would visit. Julie Hoffman of Beth Shalom Synagogue in Baton Rouge, for instance, told the cheering audience that her temple had six volunteers who would talk to 180 voters.
Volunteers took their lists of names, addresses and phone numbers and started knocking on doors.
Morgan Clevenger, president of the Fairgrounds Triangle Neighborhood Association, was one of the volunteers in New Orleans’ 7th ward.
“You have to have a have conversation with them about why voting is important,” Clevenger said. Many people feel their vote doesn’t matter. They’ve voted before but haven’t seen a change, so feel that their specific vote doesn’t really matter in the larger scheme of things.
“I say, ‘I hear you saying my vote doesn’t matter.’ I say, ‘If you don’t vote for you, would you vote for your neighbors?” Clevenger said. “They can get with that. It’s a selfless thing. They can help someone else and that’s a good thing.”
People are more receptive to someone from their own neighborhood. “What we’re doing here is building a community for those who may feel left out,” she said.
[Photo Credit: Bill Feig, The Advocate]
With access to health care on the line for 90,000 Nebraskans, OTOC leaders worked hard to expand Medicaid for those with no health insurance. After efforts to secure enough votes to overcome a filibuster in the Nebraska Unicameral proved unsuccessful, OTOC partnered with allies in 2018 to secure a place on the November Midterm ballot for 'Initiative 427' as a way to secure Medicaid Expansion in Nebraska. On November 6, 2018, the effort succeeded.
Over the course of the year, OTOC leaders mobilized 50 individuals who secured 3,500 signatures in the effort to get the initiative on the ballot. OTOC organized 17 civic academies in Omaha congregations and public libraries to help build an educated constituency and, in efforts to educate the public, published seven Opeds, including four in the Omaha World Herald. In the final days leading to the vote, the World Herald selected OTOC to counter final arguments by a team including the former Governor, Attorney General and a member of Koch Brothers Nebraska.
Leaders testified at State hearings, leveraged commitments from winning Congressional candidates to protect Medicaid Expansion if Initiative 427 were to pass, and organized a fall accountability assembly in which all seven Unicameral candidates committed to implementing Medicaid expansion.
Initiative 427 won with a margin of 41,594 votes statewide. Counties where OTOC focused -- Douglas and Sarpy -- were critical to overcoming vote deficits elsewhere. In Douglas County, alone, 111,630 residents voted FOR Initiative 427, approximately one third of the statewide total, and far exceeding the margin of victory.
OTOC leaders are now turning their attention to implementation of Medicaid expansion, to ensure it reaches those who most need it.
Imperative That Nebraska Pass Initiative 427 and Expand Medicaid, Omaha World Herald
Medicaid for Public Health, Omaha World Herald
Rinaldi's district in northwest Dallas County was one of five targeted by Dallas-Area Interfaith, a group that organized canvassing and phone banks to pump up voter turnout.
At an election night watch party at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Dallas, a television report flashed on the screen and showed that Rinaldi was losing. Lily Rodriguez (in photo at right) shouted out: “Why don’t you call immigration now?”
Rodriguez said she had quietly fumed when Rinaldi called ICE on protesters, but took action and began pushing parishioners at another Catholic church to vote.
She’d talked to them about the size of the Hispanic population, which in Dallas County is 40 percent and larger than any other group. “Hispanics are the majority and we continue to think like minorities,” Rodriguez said.
Interfaith organizer Socorro Perales said members were determined to get more people to the polls. Two weeks before polling began, the nonpartisan group held a community event at a church that brought in 2,000 people and five candidates, all Democrats.
“They are learning to organize, strategize, and this actually works,” Perales said.
All five candidates won, including Colin Allred, the Democrat who beat Republican incumbent Rep. Pete Sessions, a staunch ally of Trump, in the District 32 race for Congress.
Perales said she didn’t go after the low hanging fruit — those registered who had previously voted. Instead, she sifted through lists of registered voters who didn’t vote in the last election.
“They are just not used to voting,” Perales said. “There are enough registered voters and, if we can broaden the base, we can win. And we did.”
[Photo Credit: Ashley Landis, Dallas Morning News]
Latinos Could Turn Texas Blue in 2020 if Enthusiasm Holds, Some Say, Dallas Morning News [pdf]