Nationwide election polls are shifting and the previous predictions of a massive Republican wave in the midterm elections have faded. But the answer to who will control the US Congress still hangs in the balance. “This election will be decided by razor-thin margins in key races across the country,” said Darrell Tucci of the Movement Voter Project’s (MVP).
Most analysts now favor Democrats to retain control of the Senate by a narrow margin and Republicans to capture the House. But the outcome is uncertain. “These midterm elections are all about turnout,” MVP’s Zo Tobi said. “And nobody does turnout better than community-based grassroots groups.”
That’s the reason for Seed the Vote (STV), which helps volunteers from New York and elsewhere connect with locally rooted organizations in Pennsylvania, Arizona, Georgia and other battleground states.
“Because they’re organizing 12 months a year, grassroots groups know what works best in their local conditions,” said Seed the Vote’s Rose Mendelsohn. Because these organizations are active on issues that voters care about, they’re often more trusted than politicians. Seed the Vote helps its partner organizations expand their reach and build a bigger base by providing out-of-state volunteers to help with canvassing and making calls.
“We want to win these elections in a way that builds power for our movements in the long term,” said STV’s Kara Murray-Badal. Unlike a candidate’s campaign, Seed the Vote’s partner organizations don’t close their doors when the election is over.
STV’s partners include New Georgia Project, Living United for Change in Arizona, Pennsylvania Stands Up, North Carolina’s Durham for All and others. In three states this year – Pennsylvania, Nevada and Arizona – its main canvassing partner is the hospitality service union UNITE HERE.
“To win, it’s going to take thousands of people in motion,” said Mario Yedidia, UNITE HERE’s national field director.
In 2020, UNITE HERE canvassed with 400 STV volunteers in Arizona. Most volunteered for at least a week. They had in-person conversations with 16,000 voters in a state Trump lost by just 10,000 votes. Seed the Vote also organized more than 450 volunteers to travel to Georgia for the Senate runoffs. About half of these volunteers worked with UNITE HERE.
“Seed the Vote is a solidarity project that’s shown it can make a difference,” said Luke Elliott-Negri, the PSC legislative representative. “If you’re a PSC member who wants to affect the 2022 elections outside of New York, there’s no better way to volunteer.”
“The midterms will decide what terrain the trade union movement can fight on,” UNITE HERE’s Yedidia said in a September 7 discussion sponsored by Seed the Vote. “If we had two more Senators who would act without the filibuster, we could pass the Protecting the Right to Organize Act (PRO Act), which would change unionization in our country.” (A video of this discussion, also featuring longtime labor strategist Bill Fletcher, Jr., is at tinyurl.com/seed-the-vote-discussion.
A lot is on the line this year. “At stake in this election is whether we’ll have free and fair elections in 2024,” Yedidia said. “There are outright election deniers running at the top of the ticket in a number of battleground states. Doug Mastriano, the Republican nominee for governor in Pennsylvania, was at the January 6 insurrection, and he chartered two buses to bring his supporters. If he’s elected, he’s promised to force all voters to reregister in order to vote and move to ban abortion when he takes office.”
PSC members interested in volunteering with Seed the Vote can sign up at seedthevote.org to find out more. They can canvass for a week or a weekend in Pennsylvania or another state, or they can join a phone bank and call voters in Georgia, Pennsylvania or Wisconsin. For canvassers staying at least five days, there is available support for the costs of hotel and transportation to all who need it.
Jessica Siegel, a retired journalism professor at Brooklyn College, said, “I feel the best way to be of help is to connect with groups already working on the ground that can give us some direction.”
Peter Hogness was editor of Clarion from 2001–2015. Since 2016, he’s worked to support grassroots organizing groups in voter swing states. He has volunteered with Seed the Vote since 2020 and has written about this work for the Guardian and other publications.
CORRECTION: The web-version of this story has been updated to reflect that there is available support for canvassers staying at least five days. The original print-version of the article stated there was available support for canvassers.
Published: September 27, 2022
Last Modified: November 9, 2022