Received this e-mail yesterday from former Presidential candidate, Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D. TX), on behalf of his organization, Powered by People:
Having these conversations now (and not in the weeks just before an election) shows our commitment to work with each other even when there’s not an election on the line.
Grateful to the PxP volunteers in Laredo and beyond who knocked on doors with us.
Let’s do it again soon. pic.twitter.com/xvSYznV1yr
— Beto O'Rourke (@BetoORourke) April 12, 2021
United States voter turnout in 2020, as a percentage of registered voters, was 77%. Highest turnout in more than a century.
In Texas it was 67%. Nothing to brag about, but it’s better than we’ve done in decades.
And in the key border community of Laredo? Turnout was only 50%.
Why? Understanding the answer to this question could help determine the outcome of future Texas elections.
That’s because the Texas counties that border Mexico represent roughly 10% of our state’s population (around three million people). They also happen to be on the forefront of critical policy issues of immigration, trade, and voter suppression. They could decide our next governor, our next U.S. Senator, our next President and whether we are a “Red” or a “Blue” state.
But only if these communities turn out in higher numbers.
Much like Laredo, El Paso county turnout was low, just 56% of registered voters in 2020. Hidalgo was 54%. Cameron 52%. And only 51% of registered voters turned out in Starr county.
So why aren’t people voting? And what will it take for them to vote in the future?
I figured the best way to get the answers to these questions was to ask the voters themselves. So this past weekend I drove down to Laredo and joined a few dozen other Powered by People volunteers to knock on doors and literally meet voters where they are.
Working with Laredo-based organizers, we developed a script that allowed our volunteers to get a deeper sense of what’s going on in the lives of these voters and how they make decisions around elections.
When a voter answered the door, we introduced ourselves and asked how they and their families were doing. Any damage from burst pipes following the winter storm? Have you been able to get vaccinated? Your family doing ok?
We’d then ask them about the 2020 election. Were you happy with the results? Was there anything that kept you from voting last time? What are your thoughts on why so few people in Laredo vote? What would it take for you and others in your life to vote in the future?
We’d conclude by asking them questions about the future. When it comes to the next election, what’s important to you and your family? How likely are you to vote in 2022?
These were long conversations, they might take 20 or 30 minutes or even longer. Many of the conversations were in Spanish. Some in English. A lot of them in both Spanish and English. We really got a sense of what moves these voters and why they haven’t been moved to vote so far.
As we review the hundreds of conversations we had this weekend, we see trends and issues that stand out. The things that voters shared with us help us understand what they need to hear from candidates to believe that their vote matters, that elections have consequences for their lives. At the same time, we’re continuing to host phone banks with Powered by People volunteers to call more Laredo voters to ensure we have the fullest possible picture.
Thank you for supporting this work by making a donation of $35. Powered by People donors like you ensure we have the resources to do organizing, voter registration and voter contact work year-round (and not just in election years!).
If we make the most of these conversations and the information that voters shared with us this weekend and on our phone banks, we could make a difference in how statewide Democratic candidates do in these communities in future elections.
What if we could help move turnout by 3%? Or even 5%? What if we were able to help do that not only in Laredo, but in other similar communities that represent a tenth of the state’s population?
These border counties could very well decide the future of Texas.
Former El Paso congressman Beto O’ Rourke accused Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton of attempting to use his office “to hurt those he perceives to be his political enemies,” after the AG issued a “Consumer Alert” to the public on Wednesday alleging that O’Rourke’s political action committee may be unlawfully collecting the personal data of Texans.
The notice sent out by Republican Paxton claims that Democrat O’Rourke’s group “Powered by People” has compiled “personal and health related data in exchange for (providing) vaccine registration and voter registration information” in a manner that “may be illegal.”
O’Rourke launched the PAC to drive voter registration and turnout during the last election. In more recent times, the group has helped register elderly and poor Texans in underserved areas for the Covid-19 vaccine.
The office also put out a slickly produced video with footage purportedly taken from a Powered by People training session accompanied by warnings written across the screen.
“Partisan groups are attempting to trick Texans, create fear in seniors, and use your personal information to beef up their voter database,” the video said.
O’Rourke, a former congressman from El Paso, launched Powered by People to register Texans to vote and turn them out.
In a statement, O’Rourke said hundreds of volunteers have simply helped register senior citizens in the “poorest neighborhoods in our state” for the COVID-19 vaccine, many of whom don’t have internet access, cell phones or speak English. He said Paxton was attempting to use the office “to hurt those he perceives to be his political enemies.”
“I’m proud of what our volunteers are doing and look forward to continuing to do this important work long after Ken Paxton is out of office and, if there’s any justice in this world, sitting in prison,” he said.
Paxton has been under indictment for securities fraud for five years, but has not yet faced trial. He disputes the charges.
Volunteers across the state have stepped in to help Texans who have had trouble finding a vaccine because they lack internet access or the time to search for appointments across multiple registration websites.
Paxton’s office did not immediately respond to questions about whether it has issued other similar warnings to other groups.
Let’s also help Texas Democrats and other organizations get ready to defeat GOP clowns like Paxton. Click below to donate and get involved with these Texas Democrats organizations and groups: