RECOMMENDATIONS FOR GIVING IN THE FINAL SPRINT PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS 2020
In the history of American politics, our current reality is unprecedented. We face an autocratic president who has shown a consistent disregard for the rule of law and decency and will do anything to stay in power; a once-in-a-century pandemic; and a massive effort to enable citizens to vote primarily by mail as opposed to the ballot box in a presidential election with seismic consequences.
The massive bureaucracy that is our election infrastructure has largely accommodated this shift in our voting setup, yet the herculean effort to protect every citizen’s vote is a constant battle against Republicans who are committed to suppressing the vote in an effort to maintain and consolidate power. The Republicans’ focus is primarily on marginalizing the vote in communities of color and others traditionally disenfranchised.
This is all against the backdrop of widespread protests against racial injustice and systemic discrimination, as well as the threat of COVID-19 that is affecting communities of color most viciously. This has given President Trump and his allies even greater opportunity to fuel chaos and conspiracy theories, sowing the seeds for violence and threatening doubts about the legitimacy of our elections. In this last stretch, we know that we face previously unimaginable levels of conflict, lies and attempts to manipulate the public, aimed at suppressing the vote and undermining our electoral system as well as our democratic institutions.
On the optimistic side, Democrats and progressives have been hard at work these last few years with ferocious focus and energy, pushing forward a wave of activism that helped propel a Democratic U.S. House and victories down the ballot in 2018, and huge influxes of funding, both from small and big donors. As a result, Democrats are far better positioned this election cycle than in previous elections. We have invested in critical infrastructure such as technological tools to register and engage voters, the recruitment and training of thousands of top-notch campaign staff, the strengthening of state parties, national committees and grassroots organizations, as well as the shaping of the narrative around why voting matters.
NOW, with less than 2 months until voting begins, we must make that final push to scale our infrastructure, protect every voter’s right to cast a secure ballot, and capitalize on our last chance to influence the outcome of the 2020 elections and strategically work towards a sweep with wins across the White House, the Senate and House – even down-ballot races, with many races seemingly within reach now.
This memo is intended to guide your funding for Democratic and progressive efforts in this last stretch, as well as motivate and guide funding for all those in your circle.
Each organization has been vetted with an eye towards immediate funding needs, ability to use funds efficiently and strategically, and most importantly, potential to impact the election results. Our recommendations focus on the top presidential battleground states (AZ, FL, MI, NC, PA, WI), and take into account political priorities such as U.S. Senate and state legislative chambers that will likely impact redistricting decisions in 2021. The candidates that we recommend are those in the tightest toss-up races in areas that are most important for us to win.
Our funding guide is organized around four areas that we believe are most essential: ensuring all citizens have access to safe and secure voting options; educating voters about new election rules and engaging them to vote; supporting candidates directly; and investing in down ballot races.
Please read this guide and share it widely with like-minded people in your life. Truly, every dollar and every bit of activism helps!
Strategy 1 | Protecting access to safe and secure voting
The Republican strategy is predicated on the shrinking of the electorate, and now COVID-19 has infused practical, legal, and accessibility challenges into our election this November. We have to aggressively fund efforts to try and ensure that this election, and future elections, are safe, accessible, and fair. The organizations below approach this work in various ways.
Democracy Docket, Voter Protection Litigation – With more than 50 attorneys and new lawsuits filed every day focused on improving voting laws in the states, Marc Elias and his partners run the foremost legal operation finding and combating suppressive voting laws and practices that could disenfranchise millions of eligible voters and tip the election. Here are more details on their litigation strategy.
Center for Secure and Modern Elections – CSME is dedicated to advancing pro-voter policies at the local level that will allow for a safe vote during COVID-19. CSME is partnering with mayors in the cities of Detroit, Philadelphia and Milwaukee, among others, to organize and execute safe and accessible election plans, encourage their citizenry to register and vote, and importantly, fund municipal efforts to maximize participation.
National Vote at Home Institute – NVHI is providing technical support to election officials implementing vote at home procedures as well as other voting options. You can see its plan here.
Fair Fight Action – Stacey Abrams started FFA in 2018 to protect citizens in Georgia from widespread voter suppression efforts. FFA has since expanded its work into 18 states where it has established voter protection teams dedicated to ensuring that all eligible citizens can vote. Those teams will be stationed at polling places to protect against voter suppression.
State-based Election Efforts: The following organizations are leading efforts in specific states to work with election administrators towards setting up the best possible scenarios for voters.
- PA Alliance Foundation – The PA Alliance Foundation runs the Voter Project to support a coordinated election protection effort in Pennsylvania. The project is working with election officials to secure sufficient ballot drop boxes, mail applications to all registered voters, expand early vote locations, recruit and train poll workers, provide key equipment, and work with county election officials to avoid closing polling places.
- ACLU of Michigan – The ACLU of Michigan spearheaded the campaign to pass Prop 3 in 2018, which paved the way for a number of election reforms including extended early voting, no excuse absentee voting, and same-day voter registration. The ACLU continues to be the leading organization in the state advocating for implementation of these new rules, supporting election officials, and providing voter education materials for a coalition of GOTV organizations.
- Other states have similar projects, including the Texas Civil Rights Project and the Arizona Advocacy Network
Strategy 2 | Voter Engagement
The next step is to register voters, educate them about the new laws and policies surrounding our upcoming elections and engage them to vote!
That starts with targeted voter registration programs, traditionally run as in-person, field-based efforts on college campuses and other sites, and aided by registration at DMVs and public libraries. With COVID-19 shutting down these institutions, voter registration is in peril. There could be significant drops in new voters getting on the rolls and we need to do what we can to bridge this gap with proven mail-based and digital voter registration efforts that can scale.
Once voters are registered, they need to be engaged and energized to vote, as well as educated about current laws and policies around voting. Those connections are best made by grass-roots organizations who are trusted messengers in their communities, and candidates for office.
Center for Voter Information – CVI conducts mail-based campaigns targeting millions of voters, primarily focused on young people, people of color, and unmarried women, in priority states. It sends voter registration forms, absentee ballot request forms, and reminders to vote, all of which help turn out likely Democratic voters. With restrictions on in-person registration and unexpected increases in response rates, CVI has expanded their programs and needs funding to scale.
Win Justice (a joint effort of Community Change Action, Color of Change PAC, Planned Parenthood Votes and SEIU) – Win Justice is working to expand the electorate by mobilizing 3 million voters of color, young people, and women in four states: FL, MN, NV, WI. It is focusing resources in districts where their constituencies can help provide the margin of victory and where they can build on investments from previous years. Their program works to make voting accessible while combating voter suppression, especially in historically marginalized communities. They are an especially important voice right now in engaging the Black-led protest movement in voting. To donate click here.
Vote.org – Vote.org provides digital voter registration tools for companies, organizations, influencers, universities, and others to use in their efforts to register their constituencies to vote. It also runs its own large-scale digital voter registration drive and engages in vote-by-mail efforts.
State-Based Organizations that are focusing on engaging key communities, especially young, Black and Latinx voters in battleground states:
- Advance Carolina – Advance Carolina is a statewide Black-led and Black-focused organization. Its operations are concentrated in 15 high-priority counties throughout the state.
- Detroit/Michigan Action – Detroit/Michigan Action is working to register and turn out voters of color in Michigan. It has prioritized district attorney and state supreme court races as a way to engage their community around racial justice issues.
- Living United for Change in Arizona – LUCHA is engaging with Arizona’s working families, especially Latinx and immigrant families. It has a goal of registering 32,000 voters, making theirs one of the largest voter registration programs in Arizona.
- One Pennsylvania – One Pennsylvania registers and motivates voters among vulnerable populations such as people with disabilities and seniors. Its goal is to register 30,000 people during the 2020 cycle.
- Organize Florida – Organize Florida is a coalition of GOTV organizations in the state with plans to engage millions of Floridians ahead of the general election.
- Voces de la Frontera – Voces is a statewide organization in Wisconsin connecting with tens of thousands of progressive voters ahead of the general election. Voces has been scaling their friend- to-friend voter turnout program and connecting important community values and issues to elections and candidates with a focus on engaging Latinos to defeat Trump.
Strategy 3 | Supporting Candidates
If you have not yet maxed out direct support for candidates in federal and statewide races, these are our current recommendations for where your dollars can have the greatest impact.
Biden for President – You can give $5600 per person to the campaign prior to the convention, and $2800 afterwards. You can give an additional ~$700,000 to the Biden Victory Fund. You can give to both with a credit card here or by check/wire here.
U.S. Senate – To win a majority in the Senate, Democrats need to net three seats if we win the presidency and four if we do not. These are the critical Senate contests that appear winnable and could wrest control from McConnell and the Republicans: Mark Kelly in AZ, John Hickenlooper in CO, Sara Gideon in ME, Cal Cunningham in NC, Teresa Greenfield in IA, Steve Bullock in MT, and Jon Ossoff and Reverend Raphael Warnock in GA.
For those who want to win big, there are several more challenging contests to support: Amy McGrath in KY and Jamie Harrison in SC. Dr. Barbara Bollier is a strong candidate in a tough race in KS, MJ Hager has the potential to win in TX, and Adrian Perkins is a talented candidate in Louisiana to keep an eye on. To donate to all or some of these Senate races click here.
U.S. House – Maintaining control of the House is critical, and while many are understandably confident about doing so, we should support the class of mostly one-term Democratic congresspeople, who are predominantly women and people of color, that we worked to get elected in 2018. We have prioritized the most competitive races such as Lauren Underwood in Illinois and Elissa Slotkin in Michigan. To donate to this slate, click here. You can give one amount that will be equally divided among the races or you can choose your candidates to support among the slate.
Strategy 4 | Go Down-Ballot
With the potential to ride a wave of turnout around the country, we should turn our attention to down- ballot races. With some name recognition and voter education about why these races matter, Democratic candidates have the chance to take control of various state legislatures and state supreme courts, and win races for prosecutors and sheriffs that can change the conversation around racial justice reform. Promoting races that have powerful local appeal can also support overall Democratic turnout.
State Legislatures – Protecting and building Democratic majorities in states is a powerful lever for meaningful change. There are significant strategic opportunities in FL, GA, MI, MN, NC, PA, TX, and other states to win control of legislative chambers. It can be overwhelming with a huge number of chambers and varying campaign finance laws, but fortunately there are excellent organizations marshalling resources for the most important state legislative races.
- Sister District – Sister District’s volunteer teams around the country are adopting state legislative candidates running in the most competitive and strategically important races. These teams raise funds, send postcards to voters, make phone calls to register and turn out voters and more, giving down ballot races rare volunteer support.
- Run for Something – Run for Something inspires young people to run for office, recruits top candidates, and supports them with training, tools and money.
- Future Now Fund + Arena – This powerful partnership is training campaign staff to run state legislative races, and providing candidates with the tools and financial support they need to win.State Supreme Courts – State Supreme Courts exercise final authority over 98% of all cases in the U.S. on nearly every meaningful issue that significantly affects people’s lives including abortion rights, marriage equality, death penalty laws, stay-at-home orders in response to COVID-19, and most voting rights measures. The makeup of State Supreme Courts is especially critical now, as they will play a key role in redistricting after the 2020 census and will likely adjudicate contested 2020 election procedures and results.Michigan, Ohio and North Carolina represent the most important 2020 state Supreme Court elections where your support can play a determinative role in shaping these courts in the near term and for years to come. In Michigan and Ohio, there is an opportunity to win Democratic majorities on the State Supreme Courts, and in North Carolina there is a need to protect a newly-won Democratic majority.You can give to the slate of candidates running here, including Bridget McCormack, Michigan’s Chief Justice, who led a groundbreaking criminal justice task force in the state, and Cheri Beasley, North Carolina’s first Black female chief justice, a powerful voice on the role of courts in addressing systemic racism.
DA’s, Prosecutors and Sheriffs – While some have focused on these down-ballot offices for years because of their significant policy implications, the current political environment has highlighted the potential of these races to bring truly transformative change. One notable race is the one for Los Angeles District Attorney, where activist and ex-police officer George Gascon is running to unseat a long-term law and order District Attorney supported almost entirely by the police union. Gascon’s approach to policing could significantly impact the lives of the 13 million people who live in Los Angeles and be a model for the nation. The contribution limit is $1500 per individual and you can donate here. We will add additional recommendations soon as primaries conclude.