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When Every Contest Matters

Wed, 10/07/2020 - 16:58


Among the most important races in the Nov. 3 election are those not making headlines, yet a functional American democracy depends on them. We are talking about contests for state-level positions, whose officeholders have say over health care, abortion, policing, and a huge range of quality-of-life issues. States, too, have a very big hand in policies to curb climate change and create incentives for alternative fuels. The list goes on. This is on top of drawing congressional districts, itself a font of misuse and critically important to assuring equal representation.

Just look at Texas, where the Republican governor has tried to stifle urban voters likely to prefer Democrats by cutting the number of ballot dropboxes to one per county. South Carolina’s Republican election commissioners have been taken to court over an on-again, off-again mail-in ballot witness requirement designed to confuse and intimidate voters. It is a stupid ploy; it would be as easy to have a witness sign a fraudulent ballot as a legal one. And anyway, the very little voter fraud that has gone on has been done by individuals on the right. In South Carolina, the Trump devotee Lindsey Graham is in a close battle to hold on to his seat in the Senate.

For politically minded New Yorkers who can be assured that President Trump will not take the state’s 29 electoral votes, there is a dilemma about what to do. Many give money or work phone banks for House or Senate contests in other states, but often state and local elections are overlooked. They should not be. Activists recommend getting involved at the local and state level, even running for something if you have to. Getting out the vote matters as much, if not more, in a county or state race than for top-ticket positions.

With more than 7,000 state legislative seats in the United States, knowing how to help is daunting. One group,, works specifically on funneling donations to state candidates in districts it believes can be flipped from red to blue.

In a year when the sitting president has said he might not respect the election outcome and possibly remain in office, a coast-to-coast repudiation of current Republican leadership is necessary. This will take more than a landslide for former Vice President Joe Biden. Democrats and progressives must be competitive in all 50 states down ballot as well.


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