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9:19 AM / Thursday June 13, 2024

18 Feb 2024

Poor People’s Campaign announces effort to mobilize 15 million poor, low-wealth voters in 30+ states ahead of November election

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February 18, 2024 Category: Week In Review Posted by:

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Refusing to accept poverty as the fourth leading cause of death in America and declaring their votes are demands for living wages, voting rights and other policies to save lives and democracy itself, the Poor People’s Campaign announced last Monday that it plans a major effort to mobilize 15 million poor and low-wealth voters in more than 30 states ahead of November’s election.

Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign and co-chair of the 2024 mobilization, and Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis, co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign (left rear) listen to other community organizers as they share their stories and plans. (Photo courtesy PPC)

Pledging to wake the great, untapped power of the “sleeping giant” of poor and low wealth people, organizers during the press conference at the National Press Club said that thousands of people will be trained, with a focus on battlegrounds and states in the south to engage voters and drive them to the polls. Leaders explained that the reason poor and low-income voters participate in elections at lower rates is not because they have no interest in politics, but because politics is not interested in them.

They do not hear their needs and demands from candidates or feel that their votes matter. In 26 hours of televised debates held by both parties before the 2016 election, for example, not one hour was focused on poverty. Congress hasn’t raised the federal minimum wage in 15 years.

“We declare today that poor and low-wage voters are coming together with religious leaders and moral advocates to say, ‘our votes are demands.’ Not merely votes for personality, but votes for policy,” said the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign and co-chair of the 2024 mobilization. “If a politician wants these votes, then they must talk to these voters like they have never talked to them before. We must wake up this sleeping giant.”

The campaign plans to conduct simultaneous actions March 2 at state capitols to launch the campaign and highlight the policies being promulgated in state houses across the country that are hurting the poor, or distracting from addressing the real issues facing poor and low-wealth people.

The voter mobilization and March 2 actions will take place in Alabama, Arizona, California, the District of Columbia, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, Michigan, Missouri, Mississippi, Nebraska, North Carolina, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin and West Virginia.

“We know from the experience of leaders in this Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival that economic justice and saving this democracy are deeply connected. In this rich nation that has the wherewithal to end poverty tomorrow, where there is a political will, we must not overlook the voices and votes of poor and low-income people. We’re mobilizing, organizing, registering and educating people for a movement that votes: votes for healthcare, debt cancellation, a living wage, strong anti-poverty programs, fair taxes and the demilitarization of our communities,” said the Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis, co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign.

Organizers have declared they will not accept poverty as the fourth leading cause of death in the country when it is preventable and laid out in vivid detail data that shows poor and low wealth people have the power to fundamentally shift elections and demand that critical issues like voting rights, living wages, women’s rights and health care are addressed.

“Organizing low-wealth voters holds great – and largely unrecognized – potential to shift electoral outcomes,” Barber said.

Low-income voters accounted for at least 20% of the voting electorate in 45 states, and that share grew to near or above 40% in battleground states, including in states that flipped in 2020 or that retained very small margins of victory.

“This goes squarely against the commonly held belief that poor and low-income people are either apathetic about politics or marginal to election outcomes,” he said.

Arizona, Georgia, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Texas and Wisconsin were all states with very tight presidential races in 2020. In all but Texas, the margin of victory was near or under 3%, making possible a victory for either of the two contending political parties. In Texas, which has been a Republican stronghold for 40 years, the margin of victory was just over 5%.

In states where the margins of victory were less than 3%, low-income voters accounted for at least one-third and in some cases over two-fifths of the total voter population. Given the small margins of victory in these states, it is possible that the broader population of eligible low-income voters could decide the election in 2024.

“In 2024, the election is going to be about mobilization,” said Celinda Lake, president of Lake Research Partners. “There is no question that the biggest contest between the two parties is going to be who can get their voters out to vote. Democrats have an enthusiasm gap today, and the progressive alliance and Democrats have fissures within their constituency that makes getting out the vote even more important. The biggest bloc of potential voters by far is low-income, low-wage voters. Increased participation even by miniscule percentages could be game changers. It is a massive voter engagement that is being started here today.”

For more information about the mobilization, visit: https://www.poorpeoplescampaign.org/march2/.

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