This piece originally published in the Las Vegas Sun.
Every election year, the posters and signs go up announcing new candidates vying for political office. Every year, volunteers set out — clipboards and voter lists in hand — canvassing and campaigning for months in an attempt to activate voters.
And every year, particularly in local elections, the voters — and especially women, people of color and young people — simply don’t turn out.
Four groups — the Center for Community Change Action, Color of Change PAC, Planned Parenthood Votes, and the Service Employees International Union — have banded together to launch Win Justice, a campaign targeting infrequent, swing and drop-off voters in this election’s most contentious states — Florida, Michigan and Nevada.
For decades, the American political system has not yielded results for disenfranchised communities, and this year, everything is on the line.
The Trump administration has rolled out orders and policies undermining our most basic rights — eviscerating women’s access to health care, allowing DACA to expire, enacting a travel ban that openly targets Muslims, attacking the integrity of immigrants from Haiti and El Salvador, and encouraging police officers to mistreat people in custody — all while decimating Medicaid and other critical programs in order to dole out huge tax cuts to the top 1 percent.
But this year, with this coordinated effort, we can change the face of the electorate in November and for years to come. By partnering with local organizations in the three states and building on the progress we’ve made, we can bring the full force of these communities — 2.5 million strong — to bear on the midterm elections this fall.
One of those local partners is the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada. Since its founding in 1994, PLAN has run voter registration and turnout campaigns, citizenship workshops, and Know Your Rights forums, working closely with communities of color. Candidates typically focus on “the base,” believing that catering to already impassioned voters — who are often particularly concerned with one issue — is a better way to win.
But PLAN Action and Morales are challenging that strategy and pushing voters of color and new voters to the forefront.
“In 2016, Nevada was the firewall, and now we want to be the mandate when it comes to how we organize communities of color and new Americans to participate in the election process,” said Francisco Morales, an electoral organizer with the group.
Nevada emerged as a battleground state in 2012.
In 2016, it went blue for Hillary Clinton and put Democrats Catherine Cortez Masto and Jacky Rosen in the Senate and House, respectively.
Now, we can carry that momentum into 2018 by ousting Republican Sen. Dean Heller, who has continuously voted against environmental protections and sanctuary cities in favor of tax cuts for the least in need.
In his place, we can elect a candidate who will deliver on the demands of the public to enforce background checks for gun purchases and defend the rights of undocumented families facing deportation.
We can transform Nevada’s political landscape, shift political power to working people and ensure that low-turnout voters of color are no longer overlooked or underrepresented.
Morales says it best: “Our communities have far too much to lose to sit this one out.”