Enacting change is one of the hardest things to do. Despite the well-earned credit to the campaigns, the backbone of change comes from the people, not the politicians. The results of this election are the product of years of activism. Let’s quickly examine three of the most important 2020 battlegrounds states: Arizona, Georgia and Florida.
In 2010, Arizona passed SB 1070, a stop and frisk law that primarily targeted Latinos by requiring them to present documents of immigration status to law enforcement officers whenever there was “reasonable suspicion” that they were an illegal immigrant. Shortly afterwards, Latino, immigrant, labor and LGBTQ groups banded together to fight for immigrant rights, racial justice and economic justice. In 2011, one of these groups knocked on 72,000 doors in a district and increased its Latino turnout by 480%. In 2020, Arizona went blue for the first time in 24 years.
Almost 2000 miles away, Stacey Abrams was inspired to combat the flurry of new voter suppression laws enacted in her home state of Georgia, especially after the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act in 2013. In 2016, 22% of Georgia’s eligible voting population weren’t registered to vote. In 2020, that number is only 2%. Abrams’ organizations spent nearly a decade registering more than 800,000 new voters. They emphasized the notion that people need a plan to vote. They sent volunteers to direct voters to polling places which had been moved 48 hours before Election Day. Two years after Abrams had lost her gubernatorial race by 55,000 votes, Georgia went blue for the first time since 1992 by over 10,000 votes.
On the other side of the aisle, Donald Trump has hosted rallies all across the country since he announced his reelection bid in 2017. His rallies and grassroots organizers registered 619,000 new Republican voters in Florida. They went door to door all year round to explain their positions. They micro-targeted Florida Hispanics with information on Facebook. In 2020, the “perennial swing state” went red by 3% which is a landslide by Florida standards.
Although you can never point to one single reason for why a state goes blue or red, it’s undeniable that the work that occurs on the ground can influence the outcome. These trends of activism have rippled across the country. Hundreds of thousands of people dedicated time to contacting voters, working the polls and standing in line to vote themselves. Even during a pandemic, this year’s turnout rate was at its highest in at least 50 years. More than 150 million people voted. Sometimes change can seem impossible. It can take many failures and many years. But it’s always worth fighting for because with time, you just might get there.