[UPDATED FOR THE LAST TIME] Things You Can Do for Democracy Before November 3rd

Because neither doomscrolling nor schadensurfing will help win, but voter protection might

[Oct 13 update] 21 days till the last day to vote, and still plenty of ways to make a difference.

Megan Rapinoe: “Well, we have a little saying on the national team that we like to say … LFG. So let’s do this. Okay. LFG.” Elizabeth Warren: “Let’s do this. Alright Megan, you and me, LFG.”

But first: if you know me you know that way back in October 2016, I was one of the bedwetters who thought Donald Trump would win, and that I’ve been convinced this country would repeat that travesty again this year. We may have even been on zoom calls together, where you watched me argue with my eternally optimistic husband about our impending doom, armed with facts about voter suppression, polling close enough to hide (again) dubious political leanings of suburban white people (especially white women), and the ways Democrats (and small-d-democrats) are woefully mismatched in the dark arts of online manipulation.

Voter suppression is still very much a thing, suburban white women are still entirely too likely to vote to transform America into Gilead, and if anything, Democrats/democrats turn out to be even more outnumbered, outmaneuvered, outstrategized, and buried under an ocean of shadiness than I knew even a few weeks ago. BUT apparently, there is a level of rank incompetence, malfeasance, and chaos that can move the needle. Democrats up and down the ballot are running awesome campaigns, adapting to the realities of COVID faster, more creatively, and more effectively than Republicans by and large. It looks like Biden can win, and Democrats have a very good shot of flipping the Senate while keeping the House and picking up a few statehouses, just in time for redistricting.

Yes, my ever-cynical, always prepared for disappointment, convinced that when it comes to elections racism and hate are usually a better bet than compassion and love, mind has changed. I think we’ll win some things, including the White House. I’ve even found myself contemplating Virginia’s transformation in addition to Belarus’ — reminding myself that the truth of “elections have consequences” isn’t just a warning but a celebration, sometimes. I think we might be on the brink of opportunity for real change.

But only if we win big, win all over the place, and win with what’s gotten us this far (on top of the Trump cabal collapsing under its own horrific weight) — fighting like our democracy depends on it. SO — what I’m doing in this hopeful final stretch:

Final Contributions

First — two final campaign contributions: one to flip the Senate, and one to flip statehouses

**Shabbir’s Flip the Senate List

My friend Shabbir has been running “lazy Democrat” turnout campaigns from his living room for several cycles, backed by data analysis that would put many professional campaign operations I know to shame. This cycle he’s also putting his smarts and his network to work to raise money to flip the Senate, even identifying donors who will match $2 for every dollar he raises (up to the legal limits for those donors.) He’s offered rationale for the races he included and the ones he didn’t, and I agree pretty much down the line (my only nudge would be CO, which I think will go the way of the top of the ticket). Make every dollar act like three dollars to flip the Senate HERE.

**Pick a State Legislature to Flip, Just in Time for Redistricting!— IA, TX, AZ

This is a cheat — give to one or to all three. Sadly no good consolidated link for all of them (or matching fund.)


IA Republicans have had all three branches for the past four years, but this year the IA House is in reach for Democrats — 4 flipped seats. Give to flip the IA House, and know that you’re also sort of giving to flip the Senate and the White House, as turning out downballot voters is a good thing all the way up the ticket and IA is a tossup state.

TX Democrats look at IA and scoff — the TX GOP has held all three branches of government since 2002. Woof. This year the TX House looks flippable — TX Dems need to flip nine TX House seats (they flipped 12 in 2018.) It’s a reach. These districts are gerrymandered to within an inch of democracy’s life and/or they’re very rural. But there were 18 seats that Republicans won by less than 10 points in 2018, despite a 3–1 spending advantage. If there’s a blue wave in TX this year, plus demographic changes, plus enough money, minus voter suppression… and there might be a path. Give to flip the TX House.

AZ is on the cusp of flipping both houses from red to blue for the first time in 50 years. 50! Two seats in the state House and three seats in the state Senate is all Dems need to flip, and the available signs look gooooood. Give to flip the AZ legislature, downballot from the Senate race in which Mark Kelly is poised to deliver a second defeat to Martha McSally (who was appointed to the seat after she lost to Kirsten Sinema.)

Voter Protection

Republicans have decided that rather than governing and campaigning such that more people want to vote for them… you know, winning elections… they’ve decided to make it harder for people to vote.


Note that this is not my partisan statement. Republicans ranging from Trump to soon-to-be-twice-defeated Martha McSally, up and down the ballot, are on the record that if it’s easy to vote, that if voter turnout goes up, “you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again.” I’m tempted to screenshot the many, many examples of Republicans acknowledging that if Americans vote, Republicans lose, but that’s not the point here.

The point here is that we need to work to make sure that the Republicans’ plans to limit Americans’ access to their fundamental democratic right fail. I’m putting my time and energy in support of VoteAmerica’s tools and outreach on this front. Volunteer with VoteAmerica with me!

I also love Kat Calvin’s work at Spread the Vote. She’s hiring people in states with high voter intimidation threat to be “poll comforters” to hand out snacks, PPE, and voter protection resources to people waiting in line to vote in Georgia, Florida, Tennessee, Virginia, North Carolina, West Virginia, Texas, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Louisiana, and Wisconsin. Go to lastelection.org to support the work, and let me know ASAP if you’re available to be a poll comforter.

Paraphrasing Lindsey Graham (who would absolutely be looking at the end of this career in the Senate if South Carolina held a truly free and fair election): feel free to throw these words back in my face in December, especially if it turns out I was irrationally exuberant and hopeful. That’ll teach me to have faith in my fellow Americans again. I’ll write another post-mortem (hopefully less depressing than my last one) and own all of my words.

In the meantime, Let’s. Fucking. Go. Let me know what you’re up to in these final weeks!

[Sept 21 update] Oof. 2020 just keeps on 2020-ing. 43 days until the last day to vote.

RBG’s death was a bigger shock than it should have been, and the extraordinarily consequential fallout from her death raises all the questions about the health of our democracy.

But some of the immediate aftermath is so hopeful! Record contribution amounts flowing into Democratic and progressive campaigns all over the country! Massive upticks in people making sure they’re registered to vote! OG Democrats making noises about growing strong(er) spines and using power if they get it to actually fight back! We’re so far honoring RBG’s amazing legacy, and that’s a good thing.

And it changed a bit of my calculus about where to put my time and money over these next few weeks. In summary:

  • The marquee Senate races are more or less fully funded at this point, so I’m shifting my time and money to the races further down the queue and focusing on the ones that overlap with a flippable state legislatures.
  • Since Trump, et al, will likely have the Court in their corner, we’ve got to win by even bigger margins so turnout is the ball game.
  • All of this energy might just be enough to flip a state legislature or two, just in time for redistricting.

Details with where to give and what to do recommendations below, but first: if you’re a sort of terrible person like I am and might be motivated by or at least enjoy a short video of Mitch McConnell falling down, you can see that here: https://www.facebook.com/lnd337/posts/10157517357628144. I’d be lying if I told you it wasn’t on a loop on an always open tab on my computer right now.


Possibly competitive for Biden, definitely a flippable legislature, and maybe a flippable Senate seat (full disclosure: I think probably not on the Senate but ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.)

  • Donate to VoteAmerica — VoteAmerica is helping unregistered voters in TX work around the arcane TX system that requires printing and mailing a form. It costs $1.50 per voter to send them the form with a stamped addressed envelope ready to go. They’re looking to get 2 million of the 7 million unregistered voters in TX on the rolls — all people they’ll follow up with relentlessly to get them to actually vote. There’s about one more week to get this done.
  • Donate to Annie’s List to flip the legislature: https://annieslist.com/donate/
  • Donate to MJ Hegar if you want to take a flier on a Senate race that might be more competitive than the polls indicate: https://mjfortexas.com/
  • Phonebank to TX: https://www.mobilize.us/2020victory/event/315825/
  • Send letters to TX: votefwd.org (after you sign up you can choose to send your letters to TX)

North Carolina

Winnable for Biden, Flippable Senate seat, flippable legislature. Also lots of racism and voter suppression built into the systems so we’ve got to win by big margins for the win to count. To wit: North Carolina is Already Rejecting Black Voters’ Mail-in Ballots More Often than White Voters. (Side note: VoteAmerica is also doing “ballot curing” work in NC, where they’re helping people through the process of fixing whatever issues on their ballots allegedly made officials reject it.)

Mississippi Senate

Polling is all over the place but it’s a tightening race that hasn’t really been on the big lists so hasn’t gotten a ton of attention. Mississippi has cheap media markets where your dollars go far, and the money gaps between Ds and Rs tend to be relatively small because it’s generally not competitive. Mississippi also has the highest percentage of black voters of any electorate in the country and Espy would be their first Black Senator, which would be an extra delightful win this year. And in any case it would be fun to make the GOP spend money in Mississippi.

As I type this there are 48 days left until November 3rd, which we should stop thinking about as “election day” and start thinking about as “the last day to vote in person.” The majority of voters will cast their ballot well before November 3rd by mail or dropoff ballot or by early in-person voting.

Thanks fivethirtyeight.com!

Early voting will kick off on October 4 in Maine — where there’s a very important Senate race! — and will be an option by October 27 in 40 of the 41 states that have it (OK, Oklahoma with your “early vote” start date of October 29 and your vote-by-mail deadline of October 27… we see what you’re up to.)

You can request a ballot by mail today in all 50 states, and the no-shit deadline to get it back in the mail if you want to be sure it arrives in time is *at most* 32 days away (October 19 at the very latest, to give the beleaguered USPS a full two weeks to get it delivered.)

So, if you want to do everything you can to help Joe Biden and Kamala Harris win, wrest the Senate from Mitch McConnell, expand the majority in the House, and get good people elected to your state legislature and local offices — remember that your police force is supposed to be under civilian control, and usually that means the city council, county board, mayor, or whatever that level of office is called where you live — the time is *right now* because you don’t have 48 days to make a difference, you’ve got about 30.

So, my top three ways to make a dent right now:

1.Give money. After the next 30 days, you’ll continue to get emails and texts asking you for money, but in most (NOT ALL) cases that money will do a lot less toward winning than any dollars you can give today. So if you’ve got some cash, here’s how I recommend spending it:

first: give to VoteAmerica to support their IMMEDIATE work helping people work around stupid barriers to voting, like having zero ways to register to vote or request a ballot by mail online. A handful of states (including Texas, North Carolina, Ohio, and others) require people to physically print out a form — a mundane but significant barrier for the vast majority of households that do not have a home printer or access to one. Quoting Debra Cleaver, VoteAmerica’s founder: “There are roughly 7 million unregistered people in Texas. We could text them all, multiple times, this week if we wanted, and drive them through the tool [to request a form get sent to them.] Then we could mail them forms.” The cost is $1.50 per voter — a very tiny amount, especially when compared to the per voter cost of other voter registration efforts.

then: give to the most competitive state legislative race near you, or the most competitive local race near you. Message me if you need help identifying it.

then: give to flip the senate at this link right here: https://secure.actblue.com/donate/pedal. It was set up by my friend Sam Dorman and allows you to give to the 13 most flippable races across the country. Well, the 12 most flippable races plus Amy McGrath’s campaign to unseat Mitch McConnell, which may or may not be competitive but is possibly the most important.

then: give to Biden and Harris. (No, that’s not a donate link because there are literally 10 donate links on the homepage — pick your favorite.)

then if you’ve still got any dollars left, give to the most competitive Congressional race near you. Again, email me if you need help finding it.

2. Write Postcards and Letters

There’s good data that handwritten postcards and letters delivered at the right time are an effective nudge to get people to vote.

I’m doing both:

Get on this right away — send date for postcards is Oct. 1 and “The Big Send” for letters will be roughly then, too. If you love zoom parties with Lin Manuel Miranda, join me on a Big Send party on Sept 21st (Details here: https://mblz.io/p7aQiK).

3. Sign up to be a Pollworker.

Seriously. Do this right now at powerthepolls.com.

If you think that voter suppression includes having waaayyyyy fewer polling places open (I do) and that election protection is critical (I do), then you should be worried that the vast majority of pollworkers are older and due to COVID risks can’t carry the load this year.

The rules about who can be a poll worker are different by state and jurisdiction, but in pretty much all of them you have to be a resident of the state, and in most you have to be a resident of the county or even the precinct. (Nerd out and see the state-by-state rules for pollworkers here.)

So 3a: implore everyone you know in a swing state to sign up to be a pollworker. (Side note: Mom and Dad, please don’t volunteer to be pollworkers. This part wasn’t for you.)

Are there a gazillion other things you could do? For sure. And if you’re already doing them, please carry on! Love you for it! These are just the things I think you should prioritize (if you’re not already active) because they’re impactful, accessible, and extremely time-sensitive. I’ll update this with things you can do after October 15th in a couple of weeks. Holler if you’re very mad because I didn’t include the thing you’re doing. No promises that I’ll include it but we can at least bond about how doing things is the best way to keep away the existential dread!

I write a free newsletter on strategy, politics, communications, and the big ideas driving our world. Sign up at https://shaynabe.substack.com/

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