On Saturday, Hope Springs from Field PAC canvassed in three states: Wisconsin, Georgia and Pennsylvania. In Georgia, we have been knocking on doors in the Black Belt, an area where we had been involved in the special Senate runoffs earlier in the year, for a month.
The Georgia Secretary of State, Brad Raffensperger, recently announced he was removing 101,789 people from Georgia's voter files, a majority (67,286) of them based upon the National Change of Address database. Two weeks ago, we began anchoring our canvassing around these voters who Georgia Republicans are eager to expel from the rolls. Walking turf that includes voters who have been removed (or about to be removed) from the voter rolls adds to our message that Democrats Care! and that we are doing something about the GOP’s heavy handedness.
There were 925 names on the Raffensperger list in Doughtery County with 451 unique addresses, all in the city of Albany. If you find it curious that all the addresses included in he Raffensperger list for Doughtery County came from the college town of Albany, you get the idea of the utter injustice surrounding GOP efforts to insure election integrity. And just to reiterate the point, we found (and registered) someone who had moved from outside of Albany into Albany who have given the post office a change of address card but was not on the Raffensperger list. It did not hurt that the young woman who knocked on his door was a local volunteer able to engage this particular individual in a conversation while he was filling out the voter registration update form. Or that we walk with Observation Forms that allow us to record this kind of information every single time.
195 of the 451 addresses were apartments and 41 were mobile home lots. Apartment buildings and mobile home lots turf is cut differently (eg, if an apartment building had 60+ units, that would be one piece of turf), because you don’t always get second cracks at these addresses. Single family units are clustered and voters on the Raffensperger’s cut list are highlighted amongst normal pieces of turf.
While we mark the names and addresses that were on cut list, we tell everyone we talk to that we are canvassing because Republicans are trying to remove voters in the area. We learned to be inclusive in the messaging when we were doing the same thing in Wisconsin in 2011 and 2012. Making sure that every voter we talk to knows that this is part of why we are knocking on their doors reinforces our messaging, especially in the case of removals due to the National Change of Address database. It encourages people to talk about it to their neighbors, to ask themselves, am I still registered to vote? Are you?
We find that partisans, especially conservative groups like True the Vote, are overeager in using this database. Because they don’t direct it towards precincts likely to support their candidates and causes, they don’t see harm. They aren’t challenging their supporters, forcing them to cast provisional ballots. So while the NCoA sounds like a good idea, it isn’t designed to verify addresses or who lives where. The most common error in using the NCoA database to cull voter files is when children leave home and ask for their mail to be forwarded.
This is exactly what we have found in Georgia. Both weekends, we have found voters who were parents of children who moved, filled out a Change of Address card and, unbeknownst to them, made it onto Raffensperger’s cut list. At least one of them had voted recently. We also found a single dweller who was on the list because of mail been returned but still lived there (and didn’t realize he had mail returned to sender). This is by no means a clean list.
This is one reason why we are canvassing this far out from the election. Extensive voter contact is the fundamental principle of deep organizing, and reminding voters of the changes in the laws, especially when they are done to keep minorities from exercising their constitutional rights, will help voters remember that they have reasons to turn out in 2022. And with a governor and senate race to decide, we hope that it would take much more to motivate them.
Hope Springs from Field PAC is knocking on doors in a grassroots-led effort to increase awareness of the fact that Democrats care about our voters and are working to protect their rights. We are thinking how to mitigate Voter Suppression efforts, get around them and make sure we have "super compliance," helping our voters meet the requirements and get out and vote. We are taking those efforts to the doors of the communities most effected (the intended targets or victims) of these new voter suppression laws.
Obviously, we rely on grassroots support, so if you support field/grassroots organizing and our efforts to protect our voters, we would certainly appreciate your support:
Hope Springs from Field PAC was started by former Obama Field Organizers because field was the cornerstone of our success. The approach we adopted was focused on listening, on connecting voters and their story to the candidate. Repeated face to face interactions are critical. And we are among those who believe that Democrats didn’t do as well in the 2020 Congressional races as expected because we didn’t knock on doors. We are returning to the old school basics: repeated contacts, repeated efforts to remind them of protocols, meeting them were they are. Mentoring those who need it (like first time and newly registered voters).
On the first weekend, we found 4 voters (one of which was a married couple), and on Saturday, we found one more voter who was on Raffensperger’s cut list. We are about halfway through the list on this first round of canvassing. But by knocking on doors using the cut list, we not only verify and correct VAN (the Democratic database) but we also have the opportunity to register people who are at those addresses. We have confirmed that 41 of the addresses were correctly listed for removal from the voter rolls, while 5 voters were wrongly included. All 5 of the voters wrongly included were African-American. Every. single. voter.
Voters like these 5 need to know that they are protected. Once exposed to the fact that they were being removed from the voter rolls, they need to be assured that, when they do vote, their vote will still count. So we need to treat them like first time voters. First time voters who we expect will be targeted if they go and vote on election day at the polls.
First, we are sending these voters names and documentation to Matt Elias and the Lawyers Committee. They may be able to use them in their work before the courts.
But that is just a start. As we have done in the special Senate runoffs, as well as Texas, Florida and North Carolina, we are assigning these voters mentors who will take responsibility for getting them to vote next fall. If they are members of the Black churches we have worked with in the past (which means we have access to their membership lists), they will be assigned a mentor through their Elections Committee. We start with the churches just because we know they will then receive continuous reminders and contacts with regards to upcoming elections.
But if they are not, we already have volunteers from the Divine Nine at Albany State who have agreed to both mentor new and disenfranchised voters, as well as find others who will agree to do so.
The third component to this plan is to build out an additional voter contact element. One commenter on a previous diary asked why we couldn’t include voters like this in the kind of post card effort they were involved in. And while this isn’t a mandate for Hope Springs from Field PAC, we will be looking to partner with groups that are engaged in this kind of voter engagement and provide lists of disenfranchised voters for this purpose. This is something I will write about more in the future.
But because these names have been on Raffensperger’s cut list, we fully expect them to be on challenge lists for poll watchers, especially those trained by True the Vote. This requires a response, and we take it as a responsibility to protect these voters who we can reasonably expect to be challenged should they decide to vote on election day. So while we are not informing the voters that we expect them to be on Republican challenge lists — being unceremoniously removed from the rolls is embarrassing enough — we are doing what we can to protect their right to vote at the polls.
So the fourth component is to insure that we register poll watchers, and get them trained for this specific situation, in the precincts where these voters reside. The fifth component is to alert, prior to election day, the local District, State’s and U.S. Attorneys, as well as the US Department of Justice Civil Rights Division about the expectation that these voters will be challenged on election day and presumably asked to vote with provisional ballots. Finally, if any of them are forced to vote provisionally, to follow up and help them cure their ballot — just as we did in the runoffs in January.
The Obama campaign dealt with a very similar situation like this in 2011-2012 in Wisconsin. These are all tried and true techniques, tactics we would hope others would have followed. But what we are hearing about is millions of dollars being spent on digital organizing and advertising with the hope of educating the public and possibly reaching those affected by these new laws. As you can see, that is not our approach. We are touching this voters (figuratively), helping them to navigate their special circumstances. We shouldn’t have to do this, but, alas, we do.
If you support grassroots efforts to protect the vote and our voters, especially in minority communities, please contribute (if you are able):
Which of these elements for our Voter Protection outreach do you consider most important?
Which of these elements for our Voter Protection outreach do you consider most important?
Knocking on Doors and Informing affected voters of their rights
Building a List of wrongly chosen voters and providing their names to groups going to the courts to challenge these new laws
Grassroots outreach to Affected voters
Training Poll Watchers about the cull lists
Alerting DoJ and local State's Attorneys about this Republican ruse
Ballot Curing provisional ballots
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