“The difficult I’ll do right now
The impossible will take a little while. . .”
from Crazy He Calls Me,
by Carl Sigman and Bob Russell
|Candidates’ Forum, McAllen|
We began on a hot day in May, talking and planning an area-wide effort to get out the vote. The goals were clear; the task daunting. We would choose ten precincts in the area which had high-voter registration, but low voter turnout. And they would be places where poor families lived. In the last midterm elections (2006), only 17.5 per cent of registered voters participated in the election: half of what happened in the rest of the state.
“We” were the Rio Grande Valley Equal Voice Network, a group of community-based organizations located in this corner of the US/Mexico border.
Over the years, I have heard no end of reasons for the low turnout here along the border, everything from ”poor people don’t vote; they aren’t stupid, you know” to “people from Mexico don’t trust the voting process, because it was so corrupt over there.”
I have also heard, over and again, that the Rio Grande Valley is a sleeping giant, and, that if it ever woke up, Texas’ state politics would be turned on its head.
So we began with the difficult: finding volunteers to go door to door, not once or twice, but three times or more. And other volunteers to make phone calls. And yet others to track down those who could vote and those who would vote, to creating reams of paper so that we could track folks over time. This was not a one time project. We decided, as a group, as the Equal Voice Network, to adopt these ten precincts for a long time.
And increase turnout, in this election, by at least 10 per cent.
Which, in May, when we began this project, seemed like a lot. It would be harder than ever to find reasons for people to vote–the 2008 elections had a huge turn out from the Latino community. People were voting for hope, then, and there was tremendous energy.
But by October of 2010, the Obama administration had deported nearly 500,000 people. While some claimed that these were “criminal aliens”, it turns out that they are mostly not.
In any case, each deported person is someone’s brother or cousin or uncle.
There was “increased security at the border” but there was no immigration reform. “Immigration reform” was the very first request of the 25,000 families in our network.
So, we began with the difficult. And we preached the importance of standing up and being counted. Of speaking, so as to be heard. “Mi voto es mi voz.” And of knocking on doors, and knocking on more doors.
Early voting began on this past Monday. By Wednesday, papers statewide were reporting an astonishment–voting in the Valley was up over 200%. Two hundred per cent more people were voting this year.
We were stunned, we were excited, but mostly we kept on working. There is still another couple of weeks to go.
Perhaps this turnout is driven by some heated local races; perhaps it is up because of angry voters. I of course like to think that it is up because people were responding to someone asking them to give a damn, and to vote.
In the meantime, the large old grandfather clock in charge of marking out history tick-tocks once more towards the moment when the impossible becomes real, something that should happen in just a little while.