From IH Member Carolyn Kelly:
State legislatures tend to fly under the radar unnoticed. (Do you know who your state legislators are? I sure didn’t a few months ago.) But they really shouldn’t, because they actually do some very important things!
First, state legislatures make election law. They decide when and where and how you can register, whether and what kind of ID you need to vote, and whether independents can vote in primaries. They decide whether local and state elections are held in random off years (New Yorkers and New Jerseyans, we have an election coming up November 7, 2017!) when turnout is low, or if they are held at the same time as presidential elections and Congressional midterm elections. They decide whether you can vote after you’ve served your prison sentence, or whether you are permanently disenfranchised. They can set up automatic purges of the voter rolls, or not. So your quasi-anonymous state senator actually has a lot of power over the way you vote for president, or whether you get to vote at all.
Second, state legislatures draw congressional districts. They are responsible for the gerrymandering that makes it possible for Republicans to simultaneously win fewer votes and more seats in the House of Representatives. They are responsible for carving out safe districts that make general elections uncompetitive (and throw the real fight to the primary elections, where turnout is lower). They can make it far harder or far easier for us to hold our members of Congress accountable at the ballot box.
Third, state legislatures are the key to amending the constitution, which requires a supermajority of the US House of Representatives AND state legislatures. Were you devastated when George W Bush and Donald Trump lost the popular vote in 2000 and 2016, but became president because of the Electoral College? We will not be able to get rid of the Electoral College without amending the constitution, and we will not be able to amend the constitution without taking back state legislatures. State legislatures are also key to getting more states to sign onto the National Vote Interstate Compact, which would have the effect of making the Electoral College irrelevant once enough states sign on.
So now that you are all fired up about state legislatures, how do we go about winning them?
First, DO NOT ASSUME that your governor or your state legislature are Democratic just because your state always goes blue in a presidential election. The majority of state legislatures AND the majority of governors are Republican. New York has a state senate that is in Republican hands because a few treacherous Democrats crossed the aisle in exchange for campaign cash and bigger offices. True blue Massachusetts has a Republican governor. Daily Kos has a useful map of red/blue state legislatures and governorships.
Second, get involved! There are a few excellent organizations working on this important strategic issue.
New York friends, No IDC NY is the organization to join. Help us take back the NY State Senate from fake Democrats and real Republicans. Make sure you register as a Democrat by October 13, 2017, so you can vote in the 2018 primaries.
Follow Ross Barkan on twitter for in-depth analysis on the IDC (fake Dems who caucus with Republicans), voting rights and ethics reform, and all the ways Albany could (and isn’t, yet) countering the Trump agenda. Then go get involved in Ross’s campaign – after years of covering Albany’s dysfunction he is running for office to fix it. Ross is challenging a Republican incumbent for a state senate seat representing South Brooklyn, and he just might flip it if you knock a few doors for him.
Nationally, there are some excellent organizations working to flip state legislatures and governor’s. There are many ways to help, so pitch in however you can.
www.flippable.org Flip state legislatures and governors states from red to blue, with a focus on individual, strategic and flippable races.
http://forwardmajority.org/how Nationwide organization that deploys resources and expertise to hundreds of state and local races across the country. Focuses on helping Democratic challengers topple Republican incumbents.
https://www.spreadthevote.org/ Helps marginalized voters get the IDs they need to vote. Voter ID laws have disenfranchised many voters across the south and the midwest. We won’t win state legislatures back without turning this tide.
https://www.ourstates.org/ Tracks policy issues at the state level. It’s a great way to keep tabs on what your own state legislators and governors are up to. If you know what they are doing, you can call them up, vote them out, and otherwise hold them accountable.
http://www.noidcny.org/ New York friends, this is the organization to watch and join. They are working to raise awareness about the IDC, fake Dems who throw control of the state senate to Republicans, and they are working on primary challenges too.
Go forth and take back your state legislatures, Indivisible friends!