Five million poor, low income voters could make the difference Tuesday / by Mark Gruenberg

Rev. Barber, co-chair of the national Poor People’s Campaign | Jose Luis Magana/AP

In a massive pre-election push the Poor People’s campaign has contacted 5.5 million low-wealth and poor registered voters who could deliver the GOP a massive defeat on Election Day. The organization headed into the final weekend before Election Day intent on ensuring they get to the polls and that their votes are counted, too, despite voter repression in various states.

The theme of this last drive: “If you ever needed to vote for democracy, the time to vote is right now.”

The campaign set a goal of five million voter contacts in states with chapters, but particularly in 15 targeted states, including North Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Illinois, Arizona, Kentucky, Kansas, Nevada, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. Overall, it’s operating in 30 states and more than 140 cities, Barber said.

It raced past that mark four days before the rally, hitting 5,504,713 contacts by the time the event began. Contacts included 700,000 Floridians, 209,440 in Arizona and 731,785 in Georgia, a key purple “swing” state.  In 2020, the campaign contacted 2.1 million people total.

“Vote for democracy, vote for health care, vote for freedom. It’s all in the balloting,” urged Malik Gray of Tallahassee, Fla., one of dozens of PPC volunteers who spoke on the organization’s nationwide zoom mobilization call/rally on the evening of Nov. 2.

But the point is to get people the volunteer PPC canvassers contact to vote. Many are registered but not voted in years, if ever, “because no one contacted them” or listened to their concerns, said campaign co-chairs the Revs. William Barber and Liz Theoharis.

“The power to transform the entire political landscape is in the hands and in the votes of poor and low-income people,” Theoharis explained. “All over the country, people are hurting.”

Can make the difference

So turning them out on Nov. 8 can make a difference in the close races in target states, Barber and the others said. He used his home state, North Carolina, as an example.

“There were 1 million poor and low-wealth people there who didn’t vote” in 2020 even though they were registered, he explained. “If we had had 20% of them, the outcome would have been quite different” from Democratic nominee Joe Biden’s narrow loss to Republican Donald Trump in the Tar Heel State.

That’s what happened in Pennsylvania in 2020, Barber added. The campaign contacted tens of thousands of people there, helping Biden win by 110,000 votes.

This time, it’s contacted 614,991 voters, urging those who support its agenda of diverting federal funds from the military to domestic programs, raising the minimum wage, enacting strong worker rights, improving housing and public schools and providing health care for all. Two of the volunteers speaking via zoom specifically endorsed government-run single-payer health care, too.

Pennsylvania is particularly important because it has an open Republican-held U.S. Senate seat and open Democratic-held governorship. The Senate race between pro-worker Democratic Lieut. Gov. John Fetterman and Trumpite Republican Dr. Mehmet Oz could break that chamber’s 50-50 tie.

And Pennsylvania’s governor controls the election machinery in the Keystone State.  Attorney General Josh Shapiro (D) faces a Trumpite Republican state senator who has led the former Oval Office occupant’s campaign to erase not just Biden’s margin, but the votes of poor and low-wealth people in Philadelphia.

Other volunteers highlighted other problems poor and low-wealth people face—problems they’re using on the campaign trail to attract people to vote on Nov. 8.

“There are millions of paid caregivers who are earning less than $15 an hour,” the minimum wage floor the campaign is lobbying for, said caregiver Teresa Muldrow of Philadelphia. “And there are millions more who are unpaid.” They’re family members.

“The expanded child care tax credit lifted 30 million people out of poverty in 2021” when lawmakers used it to aid poor- and low-wealth people left with little or no income due to the coronavirus pandemic. “But Congress refused to extend it” though the modern-day plague still afflicts the U.S. Restoring the tax credit and making it permanent is is a Poor People’s Campaign goal.

“Our public schools aren’t funded enough,” said Anam El-Jabali, a Palestinian refugee and mother of five from Chicago’s southwest suburbs. “This is why we demand quality, equitable and diverse schooling.”

“I want folks to understand this is serious,” Barber said. “We march, we organize, we vote. But the one thing we don’t do is quit,” signaling the campaign will continue after Election Day, to hold politicians’ feet to the fire.

“Voting is the guaranteed way to shift public policy—if the masses get together” to elect officeholders who will work to end the plight of the nation’s 140 million-plus poor and low-wealth people, Barber added.

“If the extremists” who oppress the poor “didn’t know this, they wouldn’t be fighting us so hard. They want the lobbyists and the greedy to use the vote,” but not the rest of us.

Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People’s World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but a holy terror when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.El galardonado periodista Mark Gruenberg es el director de la oficina de People’s World en Washington, D.C. También es editor del servicio de noticias sindicales Press Associates Inc. (PAI).

People’s World, November 4, 2022,

Poor People’s Campaign exceeds 5 million voter goal, won’t stop / by Mark Gruenberg

JACKSON, Miss.—The Poor People’s Campaign has exceeded its national goal of reaching five million low-income and low-propensity voters, co-chairs the Revs. William Barber II and Liz Theoharis announced on Oct. 30. And it isn’t going to stop there.

Instead, the drive scheduled a big boost with a National Virtual Get Out the Vote rally, scheduled for 8 p.m. Eastern Time on Nov. 3. Participants can access it here.

“We won’t stop until we see a society that lifts from the bottom,” their tweet declared. The theme of the rally, it added, is: “If we ever needed to vote for democracy and justice, we need to vote now.”

While that theme refers to preserving democracy as well as expanding it, Barber, in an Oct. 30 sermon just before a rally the next day in Jackson, Miss., made it clear that the campaign’s wide-ranging agenda still is a top priority—and that it can be achieved if hordes of poor and low-wealth people head to the polls on Nov. 8.

“It may not be the whole pool” of voters, Barber said then. “But it can change the pool.”

“If you want to be whole, act as though you don’t have to accept this level of misery, you don’t have to accept this level of pain, you don’t have to accept this level of oppression, you don’t have to accept this level of abandonment, you don’t have to accept this level of hopelessness,” the veteran pastor preached, quoting Jesus Christ.

“Instead, stay focused on transformational change. You can be made whole” by voting to change away from politicians who follow the rich and oppress others.

Barber, whose movement now has chapters in at least 45 states, re-emphasized that poor and low-wealth people—who numbered 140 million even before the coronavirus pandemic hit 2-1/2 years ago—can change the political calculus only if they vote as a mass and do it together.

“The truth of the matter is that what if, in spite of all the misery and all the pain because of all the bad policies of Caesar”—Christ’s oppressor, but also a stand-in for today’s oppressive politicians—“and because of all the hatefulness,” people “decided to turn their misery into a movement?”

Then, he said, “you can change attitudes right now. You can decide this election. This America doesn’t have to be like this.

“You can decide we go in another direction,” he urged. “[We have] the power to organize this misery into a powerful group that refuses to accept things the way they are.” Voters “are not just to be acted upon,” he reminded listeners.

The Poor People’s Campaign has a track record to build on for achieving those electoral goals. It turned out enough poor and low-wealth voters in 2020 to help swing key states away from candidates full of hate for poor and low-wealth people and towards their foes. For Barber personally, the haters included Republican Oval Office occupant Donald Trump, as he told his daughter one evening.

Besides joining the massive GOTV national rally, supporters can also go to this link to join the campaign’s text banking, or call up the hashtag #OurVotesAreDemands.

National Virtual Get Out the Vote rally – Nov. 3rd at 8 p.m. Eastern Time. Sign up now.

Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People’s World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but a holy terror when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.

People’s World, November 3, 2022,