I couldn’t let Election Day come and go without offering a top ten list of progressive groups working for change on November 2nd and beyond. Here, then, is my far-from-comprehensive list of organizations embodying a new progressive spirit and infrastructure that will mobilize first-time voters, protect every vote, help to elect John Kerry and provide the basis for progressive victories in the future.
The majority of these groups are affiliated with one of two coalitions. National Voice is coordinating non-profit groups such as ACORN, the NAACP National Voter Fund, the Southwest Voter Registration Education Project, and the USAction Education Fund (as well as 1,000 other nonpartisan groups) to create a new kind of voter registration, education and outreach effort directed at the millions of Americans usually ignored by the campaigns.
The November 2 Campaign is the most effective voter mobilization group in the National Voice coalition. Its simple “November 2” slogan is plastered on t-shirts, billboards, buses and ads in movie theaters. “You want people to come up and ask you what the shirt is all about so you can engage them in conversation about voting,” explained Mark Ritchie, NV’s executive director. There’s an inspirational and optimistic quality to it, combined with real service, reminding people when to vote, how to get register, how to find your polling place. It’s civics with an edge. Having recruited 200,000 volunteers, the November 2 Campaign has upped its registration goal to 5 million new voters.
Election Protection 2004 (EP2004 ) was launched by Ralph Neas’ People for the American Way (PFAW) and other coalition public interest partners to provide educational tools and legal assistance to minority voters in battleground states. PFAW has set up 58 field offices in the targeted states, and along with its strategic partners in the coalition it is mobilizing nearly 20,000 volunteers including 5,000 lawyers. “What Freedom Summer was to 1964,” Neas says, “Freedom Fall will be to 2004.”
America’s Families United Voter Protection Project, as I wrote here in August, understands that election protection begins long before Election Day. For months, AFUVPP has been working in some 100 counties and 20 states to clarify ID rules, monitor election officials and ensure that registered voters remain on the rolls. AFUVPP, says Director Penda Hair, is “adding additional activities” prior to Election Day, is “very active” in Ohio, where GOP poll watchers are seeking to suppress African-American turnout, and is trying to prevent the election from being thrown into the courts. “Our lawyers are now developing a county-by-county strategy for dealing with problems,” explains Hair.