First a little background music.
2017 was a phenomenal year for Grayson County. We have more active volunteers and concerned participation since the Nov 2016 election than we have had for a long time. It began in January 2017, when an overflow crowd attended our monthly meeting. We agreed to meet again on Feb 4, to discuss and form committees to continue the work we knew needed to be done.
Jan Fletcher took the lead for the unstoppable Action Committee. Pamela McGraw headed up the Candidate Recruitment Committee. Jeremy Posadas was selected to chair the Outreach Committee for the purpose of drawing in nonvoters; Terri Rodeffer, Communications Committee, to look into the groups Indivisible, activities in Dallas and other Texas Dem parties.
Indivisible, MoveOn, Organizing for Action, Annie’s List, and the Texas Democratic Party offered webinars and extensive trainings that many of us participated in. Lindy Olson and Dan Pucul created Indivisible Sherman, and Women Unite Texoma started up under the leadership of Randi Tanglen.
We all came together to organize and rally support for protest marches and mock townhalls at the Sherman courthouse.
Lander Bethel starred in our “absent representative” town hall where he magnificently whipped up on Glen Johnstone, standing in for the absent Rep. John Ratcliffe.
The massive rally the day after the presidential inauguration invigorated and inspired people from all walks of life to release their inner activist.
New get-it-done organizations, such as Swing Left, which is focused on taking back the House in 2018, sprang up across the nation. With the support of Onward Together, first-time candidates that Run for Something endorsed and supported won their races in Virginia, Pennsylvania, Georgia, and more. 86 women trained by Emerge America won, including nine of the seats flipped in Virginia. Color of Change PAC was instrumental in winning the district attorney race in Philadelphia for Larry Krasner, a longtime defense lawyer committed to criminal justice reform. Indivisible groups made more than 600,000 calls into Virginia to help get wins for Ralph Northam for Governor, Justin Fairfax for Lieutenant Governor, and Mark Herring was re-elected as Attorney General. The DNC and DCCC are supporting candidates in off-year elections more than ever before.
Victors included immigrants and former refugees, transsexuals, and many others who support voting rights and civil liberties. Hard work, activism and organizing make a difference in who wins and how they win.
Democrats took Virginia, winning the top state offices and picking up at least 16 state representative seats. In addition to effective campaigning, there are two lesser known but important factors contributing to these wins. Early this year, fearing hacking similar to what happened during the presidential election, when, according to the FBI, as many as 39 states had their election systems scanned or targeted by Russia, Virginia announced it would no longer use touch-screen-only voting machines. A hack-a-thon in Las Vegas showed how easily they could be breached. Paper ballots ensure that if they are, those breaches are immediately obvious, with the additional benefit that now re-counts are genuine.
Secondly, thousands of formerly incarcerated individuals who were previously barred from voting for life were finally able to cast a vote in this election after having their rights restored. Virginia is one of four states that permanently disenfranchise people with felonies, even after they’ve served their sentences [Kentucky, Florida, and Iowa]. “While the state’s governor is allowed to restore individuals’ right to vote, last year Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe shocked conservatives by signing an order restoring rights to more than 200,000 people who had completed their sentences and parole. Republican lawmakers successfully sued to block the move, arguing that he lacked authority to restore rights en masse. So McAuliffe’s administration started handing out the orders one by one; more than 168,000 ex-offenders have since had their voting rights returned. About 42,000 of them have registered to vote.”
Even though Democrats received 55% of the votes and Republicans only 45%, Republicans may maintain control of the Virginia state house of representatives, due to gerrymandering. Right now, Democrats have 48 seats and Republicans 47, with 5 seats yet determined. https://www.nytimes.com/elections/results/virginia-general-elections
Warning: please avoid false equivalence. Yes, Democrats have been known to gerrymander districts, but not for the purpose of denying equal voting rights to minorities, and not to the massive extent done by Republicans in 37 states after the 2010 election and census.
For more info, https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/virginia-politics/paper-ballots-make-a-comeback-in-virginia-this-fall/2017/10/07/724106ec-a92b-11e7-850e-2bdd1236be5d_story.html?utm_term=.8f5a4288b860
and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Redistricting_commission and https://www.verifiedvoting.org/
Sherman City Council election
For city elections, Sherman is divided into four districts, each one having a city council member, plus two city wide at-large seats, for a total of 6 city council members. Because the Sherman City Council race is non-partisan, we were restricted in what we could do. We didn’t feel free to endorse candidates. We placed no ads or endorsements on our website or on our Facebook page and didn’t use social media to boost announcements. However, a group of dedicated citizens met on Mondays to make 3,751 precision targeted calls for Commie Linson, a candidate to represent District 2, and the candidate recruited and endorsed by Pamela McGraw. Lindy Olsen organized volunteers to write 500 postcards to voters in District 2. Together, we communicated with over 1,500 households. A Stanford University study proved that, on average, successfully completed volunteer calls raise turnout by nearly 3 percentage points. In a close election, this will make all the difference.
Commie Linson lost 1,239 to 2,393 (city-wide total 3,632). Based in part by District 2 voter turn-out in the May school board and bond election in Sherman (city-wide total of 3,503 votes; 626 in Dist 2), I believe Commie may have won her district.
One of the many ways the wealthy and powerful maintain their grip on the electorate is to dilute opposition votes in every way conceivable. Cities with democracy as a prime concern mandate that districts elect district representatives. Cities with monied interest in control demand city-wide elections for district seats. It takes more money to run a city-wide campaign, and they have it. I believe, and I will be able to test this assumption when the Nov 2017 voting information is uploaded to TexasVAN, that Commie won a majority of the votes from District 2, and rightfully belongs on the Sherman City Council. In either case, Sherman citizens should be out-raged by the current system and demand that 4 of the 6 city council members be elected directly by the people from the district they represent.
-Barb Rush, Nov 30, 2017