What’s the deal with the 2012 presidential election?
In the CLPP session “2012 Elections: Representing Our Communities” a stellar panel of advocates and policy makers came together to answer that very question. They talked about where things are at with elections in the U.S., where they are going, and how we can continue to work to ensure that people of all ages in our communities are represented in the 2012 presidential elections in particular.
Speakers included Deborah Peterson Small, founder and director of Break the Chains, Julia Reticker-Flynn, Manager of the Youth Activist Network at Advocates for Youth, Representative Ellen Story (D-MA-3rd Hampshire), and Sarah Audelo, the panel moderator and Senior Manager of Domestic Policy at Advocates for Youth.
They shared a lively discussion on voter disenfranchisement, the upcoming elections and more. Couldn’t be there? No worries. I pulled out 5 new things I learned about the 2012 election from their conversation. Check em out after the jump.
1. The youth vote will play a crucial role this year.
In 2008, millennials came out to the polls in record numbers. It’s equally if not more important that we make sure our voices are heard in 2012. Panelists from Advocates for Youth noted that as a voting bloc, we’re continually growing, with eligible millennial votes as a percentage of eligible votes set to nearly double by 2020. Millennials are also known to skew progressive. For example, abortion is most commonly viewed as a controversial issue. But 6 in 10 millennials believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases, compared to other generations.
2. Women are the super majority of voters.
Women vote in higher numbers than men do. And although women are often pegged as only caring about choice issues, which yes we care about that but to say hey we care about all these issues too is really exciting.
3. Voter id laws are an insidious voter suppression tactic which, while not new by any means, are gearing up to play a revitalized role in our elections.
This video by Campus Progress does a good job of introducing the topic of voter ID laws, which threaten the core of democracy in this country.
According to our panelists, restrictive voter id legislation is being passed in state after state. These laws claim to combat voter fraud by requiring voters to have certain id, but they don’t actually prevent fraud. Someone is more likely to be struck by lightning than commit voter id fraud. In fact, they only serve to disenfranchise vulnerable demographics from getting to the polls. Campus Progress has estimated that these laws could prevent more than 1 out of every 10 eligible voters from voting if they succeed. And it should come as no surprise that the majority of those affect are low income and/or minorities. Stats estimate that 15% of low income people, 25% of black people, 59% of latina women and 78% of black males lack the required id. Which brings me to the next thing you should realize about the upcoming election…
4) Voting is more of an activist statement than ever before.
Many of the panelists spoke of how seeing these strategies in place that directly impact our lives and our ability to vote makes it really apparent how important this sort of engagement is.
It’s no mistake that there has been a huge push on these voter id laws since the last election. Voter id laws are very intentional. Who doesn’t have valid ids? Maybe some liberal Manhattan-ites who never needed to drive. But mostly women whose last names changed when they married. Trans people. People of color. Poor people.
So it’s no surprise that we are seeing these laws pop up after a special 2008 election which saw record turnout from many of these groups.
5) Voting serves a dual purpose in today’s political landscape.
Deborah Peterson Small expressed an idea about engaging with imperfect institutions (such as our American democracy) that I thought was really great and important:
“We have to get people to invest in and participate more in democratic institutions with the knowledge that they are not necessarily going to get back what they expect from that time and investment, at the same time understand that that investment is necessary in order to produce a better functional working democracy.”
To elaborate on this point, she used an analogy comparing achieving true democracy with ending school segregation and achieving integration in the 60’s. She commented that strategies for integrating schools had actually begun in the 30’s, and that the strategy involved at first trying to make the state fulfill separate but equal as it applied to grad schools. It was about forcing states to perfect this institution they had put in place in order to dismantle it when it became clear that it was impossible to achieve.
She seized on this idea of promoting an idea at the same time you were working to dismantle it.
“We want people to invest and engage in the democratic institutions that we have, as imperfect as they are. Knowing that we won’t get all that we want from that process… means we can actually begin to articulate and envision what that desirable future looks like. Where is the conversation on what would really work? For instance, is a 2 party system really a democracy for the 21st century? What is our vision of a working democracy for the 21st century, and how to communicate that in a way that involves other people, and how to use our organizing?”
A good tie in to the 6th point.
6) This will be a do or die presidential election.
In the words of our panelists, we are voting “to prevent a catastrophe.” Nothing is in the bag for Obama, and on a state level we are literally being rolled over. Republicans are acting as fundamentalists, not in the sense that they are acting as religious fundamentalists but in the literal sense that they are exercising strict adherence to a set of beliefs without allowing for exception or compromise. As one panelist put it, they would “kill a baby to save its soul.” The ability to protect the future of democracy in America is at stake.
Rep. Ellen Story elaborated on the urgency of this election by recounting her experience working with Romney was he was the Governor of Massachusetts, her home state. As she told it:
“He had never held elected office before that. He came straight from being a big successful CEO and thought he would run the government like a big business. But they do not have the same goal. He wanted there to be one line, one message that came out of the Governors’ office. And the way state government works is that there are different departments and they have people that come to the state house and they talk to the legislators about the good work they are doing in the agencies so that when the budget comes they advocate for them. Mitt Romney came and ruled that out immediately. And that was a huge, huge mistake.
He will not be a good president. He cannot be our next president. When he ran for Governor he was pro-choice. There are pictures of him with the head of Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts holding hands. He has always been pro-choice since his mother ran for congress and she was. He is a lie.”
This election is important because Mitt Romney is terrible. It’s also important because there are so many un-terrible people in this country, and it feels like we’re on the verge of something. In the words of Ms. Peterson Small, “a committed group of people can really shake things up. We are starting to see a different vision created…I do believe we are on the cusp of a world revolution.” After a weekend at CLPP, I can’t help but feel the same.
AAUW and many other orgs are doing awesome voter registration trainings across the country: Learn more.
Visit www.866ourvote.org to report voter fraud or illegal voter id activity.