Before I could vote, I stood outside a Safeway getting signatures for a petition about the Nuclear Freeze. I was arrested in college protesting investment in South Africa. I wrote letters to voters from the bleachers at my kids' sports practices. Political activism has always a part of my life.
In 2018 I was in Texas working on my album Let's Be Brave and went to a Beto O'Rourke rally. A friendly volunteer signed me up to text voters from afar, and by Fall I found myself in Houston for the campaign.
Beto HQ Houston, Team Dinner, Saturday before Election Day 2018
In 2020 I knew the only thing that would keep me sane during the Presidential election would be to stay busy, so I organized letters to voters campaigns and worked for a month as a Digital Organizing Trainer for Mission for Arizona, then drove to Phoenix a week before election day to serve as an official Maricopa County Poll Observer. I wrote about my experience in the polls on Twitter, and Mandy Patinkin retweeted it!
Halloween as an Official Poll Monitor, Phoenix 2020
My philosophy has been that since I'm financially and logistically able to make trips like this, I'm obliged to do it.
In 2022, I again embraced a vision of a Texas the represents all Texans. (Here's a heartfelt piece about working for the Beto campaign and why I support him.)
Beto Forth Worth HQ 2022
My Back Seat, Dallas 2022
Beto Forth Worth HQ Election Night 2022
Beto getting within striking distance of Ted Cruz was a wakeup call for the Texas GOP. Between 2018 and 2022, they exerted an all-out assault on voting rights. We knew we had the numbers to win, so the strategy was simply to help people legally vote. At every door I knocked in the Dallas area, the goal was simply to inform people about the correct way to cast their ballot, and where and when they were allowed to do it. Here's a thread I posted about the suppression of the youth vote.
Now, the 2024 election is on the horizon. My plan for 2024 was essentially the same as 2022. I was going to pick a place to travel where I felt I could be the most help. But three things made me change my mind. The first was something I observed while knocking doors in Dallas, the second was something Stacey Abrams said, and the third was a conversation I had online with a fellow activist.
First: we were assigned to a very poor neighborhood in South Dallas for a shift in the afternoon. Not a lot of people home, so we mostly did "lit drops" with the correct voting locations for that neighborhood written in with a sharpie. I was able to have a few conversations with people and felt good that I was able to provide useful information that would increase the likelihood they'd succeed in voting. When we reconvened after the shift, my young partner suggested to our leader that maybe we should instead hit these neighborhoods after work hours. "Nobody works in this neighborhood," our leader replied.
That wasn't true. As we were winding up, we saw multiple people getting home from work. But our shift leader didn't understand this neighborhood at all, or maybe she didn't want to be there any time close to dark.
Second: after the 2020 election came the runoff in Georgia. I was privileged to be on a private zoom with Stacey Abrams with a group of committed activists. The #1 message she and her organizers had for us? "We love and thank you for your support. Don't book an Air B&B in Savannah. Send us money."
Finally, a diehard activist I follow on Twitter then sealed the deal earlier this year with a post about an epiphany she'd had.
This makes so much sense to me. I feel good about the fact that I definitely helped people vote in Texas. But how much more effective would it be for a community if the organizers are local? And how do you get local people - especially poor people - empowered to get out the vote? You pay them.
So! This year, here's my plan. I'm donating to TurnoutPAC at a rate equivalent to the total I would have spent traveling to Texas for two weeks. I will look for other good boots-on-the-ground organizations that pay community members to get out the vote.
And then, I'm going to work as a poll worker! I was so impressed with the bipartisan professionalism I observed in Phoenix, and it made me heartsick to see the Maricopa County election disparaged. After the debacle of 2020, good poll workers are needed everywhere. I'm pretty sure my county is well covered as we have mail in balloting, so I just committed to work in Inyo County for the week before the election and Election Day.
As always, the 2024 election will be all hands on deck. I hope you'll join me!