Poor People’s Campaign launches plan to reach out to 5 million poor people before midterms

Published 3:00 pm Friday, September 2, 2022

The Poor People’s Campaign will reach out to 5 million poor and low-wage people and low-propensity voters before the midterm elections, encouraging them to vote based on policy demands and then follow through by making sure their candidates support policies that protect democracy and justice for poor and low-wage people

Working under the theme of “If We Ever Needed to Vote for Democracy and Justice, We Sure Need to Vote Now,” the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival has designated 15 states as strategic states where it will concentrate its outreach via phone and text banking, registration and a to-the-polls program. Those 15 states are: Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Wisconsin and West Virginia.

Before the 2020 presidential election, the PPC:NCMR contacted 2.1 million poor and low-income voters through text banking. Fifty-eight million low-income people voted, accounting for 33% of the electorate and 45% in battleground states, according to the study,  “Waking the Sleeping Giant: Low-Income Voters and the 2020 Elections” that the campaign released last year.

But over 80 million were eligible to cast a ballot, meaning over 20 million low-income people left their votes on the table.

“In this election cycle, our votes are not support, they’re demands,” said Bishop William J. Barber II, president and senior lecturer of Repairers of the Breach, one of two co-anchors of the PPC:NCMR, where he also is a co-chair.. “A movement that’s concerned about systemic poverty, systemic racism, ecological devastation and the false moral narrative of religious nationalism cannot be a movement that doesn’t vote because all of those things are affected by policy. And policies are changed by people who get elected to political positions. If you want to change policy, you have to be involved in the political process.”

Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis, director of the Kairos Center for Religions, Rights and Social Justice, a co-anchor of the PPC:NCMR, where she is a co-chair,  said poor people have listed several reasons for not voting, including that politicians don’t talk with them or about their issues.

“When poor people and low-income people go to the polls, they can say with their votes:  We will make you listen. We will make you address our issues. And if you don’t, then we will elect someone who will,”  Rev. Dr. Theoharis said.

This movement will not engage in a “violent insurrection or pessimistic resignation but is, instead, a moral resurrection,” BIshop Barber said.

Addressing the policy issues in this country means recognizing that while 400 people make an average of $97,000 an hour, over 50 million people make less than $15 an hour; while three people have more money than 50% of all Americans combined, over 4 million people earn a sub-minimum wage of $2.13 an hour; and while billionaires and the wealthy have seen a more than $2 trillion increase in their wealth since the pandemic began, 330,000 people died during COVID from a lack of healthcare.

In addition: the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour hasn’t changed in 12 years; 87 million people go without healthcare or are uninsured;  700 people die each day from poverty and inequality and 140 million people are poor or low-income – and that was before COVID.

“If political leaders don’t hear you, you have to make them hear you,” Bishop Barber said this week on a call with hundreds of state activists. “And you make them hear you by participating in elections with an agenda. Not just voting and going home. In most states the percentage of poor and low-wage people that need to be moved to the polls is less than 25%.

“We’ve done the hard work. We know we don’t have to get 100%. And sometimes, not even 20%. But the way elections are going, a powerfully organized, committed group of people mobilizing people around issues, not around personalities, can have tremendous impact.”