Updated: Oct 21, 2021
Despite what you may have heard, there’s no such thing as an “off-year” election.
Municipal elections, county elections, school board elections — they don’t wait for even-numbered years, and they’re every bit as important as federal races. And in 2021, voters in two states (New Jersey and Virginia) will vote for Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, and state legislators.
With less than three months until Election Day, the work of Postcards to. Swing States volunteers and other projects to get out the vote is critical.
It is so important to keep New Jersey Blue. New Jersey Democrats have already led on voting and voting rights, passing automatic voter registration, securing online voter registration, expanding access to vote by mail, and establishing nine days of in-person early voting.
Virginia is also a great example of why state-level races are so critical. State legislatures are the new battleground for voting rights. Virginia currently has a Democratic trifecta and it is the first southern state with its own Voting Rights Act. But if Republicans gain control in Virginia they could roll back those historic wins. It’s critical to keep Virginia blue in November.
Republican-led states are proposing things like:
reducing voting hours
cutting the number of polling places and ballot dropboxes
criminalizing giving water to voters waiting in long lines
pushing back Sunday voting to hurt Souls to the Polls
Meanwhile, in addition to the Voting Rights Act, Virginia Democrats have passed:
45 days of no-excuse absentee voting
automatic voter registration
a repeal of VA’s discriminatory voter ID law
requirements for voting materials in other languages, where needed
Other state officials can have big impacts on voting rights, too. During his term as Virginia’s Governor, Terry McAuliffe used his power to reinstate voting rights for more than 173,000 previously incarcerated Virginians.
To be clear, voting rights shouldn’t depend on where you live. Congress urgently needs to pass both the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to restore tools used to fight voter suppression from 1965 to 2013.
But until we have strong Federal protections for voting rights on the books, state capitols will remain the epicenter of pro-voter and anti-voter legislation.
State legislatures are going to be the front lines of some of our most important fights — not just voting rights, but reproductive rights, racial and economic justice, education, and more.
And the worst of those laws may eventually make their way to a 6–3, far-right Supreme Court, ready to rubber stamp continued erosions of our rights and give the green light for other states to do the same.
All this makes it more important than ever that states like Virginia and New Jersey stay under Democratic control. (Democrats have only been in charge in Virginia since 2019, and look at everything they’ve accomplished already!)
This is Where Future Leaders Get Their Start
Developing the Democratic bench is about more than one election. It will pay dividends for the party in years to come. The folks running for state legislator today — if they get the support they need — will join a growing, increasingly diverse pool of candidates for offices at every level of government.
We don’t just mean the folks running for office, either. They have hundreds of staff and volunteers for whom 2021’s campaigns will be one more step toward running for office themselves. Win or lose, investing in these races is investing in the Democratic Party’s future.
This blog is based on information provided by Progressive Turnout Project. For more information go to www.turnoutpac.org