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Date: 2024-05-21 Page is: DBtxt003.php txt00023356
10. GOTV ... Remember 120 Million Non-Voters:

Written by Joe Madison

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Peter Burgess COMMENTARY

Peter Burgess
10. GOTV ... Remember 120 Million Non-Voters:

Written by Joe Madison

One of the lessons that I’ve learned from my good friend and mentor Dick Gregory is that there’s always a difference between a moment and a movement.

All movements require sacrifice. And one of the things that motivated me to go on my hunger strike was that there were demonstrations—most of which weren’t effective—and I just felt that I had to bring it up a notch. And although my hunger strike too wasn’t successful, one thing it did was to wake up a sleeping giant and mobilize young people. When you sacrifice, the first thing most people ask is “Why?” And this is when you have the opportunity to explain the issue and to educate people.

When I used to participate in civil disobedience, one of the things people didn’t realize is that when you go into a lockup many of the young people there—if they recognize you—one of the things they’ll do is to ask you, “What are you doing in here?” That’s both personal and educational.

Now, in terms of getting out the vote, I’m going to go back to when I was the political director for the NAACP, and there was a fascist mayor in Philadelphia by the name of Frank Rizzo. He was dealing with term limits as mayor and wanted to change the city charter so that he could run for consecutive terms. I was sent in by Benjamin Hooks to do a major get-out-the-vote and voter registration effort.

Since I thought that Democrats weren’t doing enough face-to-face advocacy, first thing we did was to identify the low voter turnout areas and then did some old fashioned recruiting. We recruited one person a block, or one person in an apartment building or a condo building, who would volunteer to go door-to-door to find out who’s registered to vote. That’s what Democrats should be massively doing right now, not in late September or October. Then if they’re not registered, leave them a voter registration form or information where they can get registered to vote.

Once we registered them, they became part of what I refer to in military terms as our infantry. Now, today everything is virtual, but you use the virtual as backup. You don’t stop doing the virtual piece, but this face-to-face work is extremely important. Then, three to five days out, we started putting up door hangers and pamphleting information saying, “This is where you go to vote.” And then on election day, that same block captain is knocking on doors. Now, this may sound old-fashioned in this virtual environment we live in, but nothing beats this shoe-leather, face-to-face approach. And then you use texting and phone banks to back up what you’re doing.

One other thing that few people now discuss: we should be hitting the campuses in August and September with voter registration. My alma mater, Washington University in St. Louis, was one of the universities in 2020 that had a record voter registration and turn out, and that should start when students arrive on campus. Make sure that they are registered to vote, and then you also have to start deciding on what is the best time to distribute absentee ballots on campus. Now that’s what I came to this Winning America effort to tell you. Keep in mind that in 2018, 120 million eligible Americans did not vote. That’s the target group. And we’ve got the technology to identify them.

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