The Washington Post dropped by Detroit late last week to update readers on GOTV — get out the vote; you knew that, right? — efforts in Detroit, led by union members and narrowly directed at minorities who generally don’t vote in midterm elections.
“We lost by 10,000 votes in the state of Michigan, and there were 200,000 voters that didn’t show up in the city of Detroit. That is criminal, and it way overshadows the number of Obama-Obama-Trump voters in that state,” said SEIU president Mary Kay Henry. “People debate the exact number, but the way you win Michigan is you need to have 40,000, 50,000 or 60,000 more voters turn out in Detroit than have normally turned out in off-year elections.”
Mobilizing infrequent voters is much harder than turning out those who reliably participate in elections and thus need little prodding, but the 2-million-member union has spent tens of millions of dollars on a massive field operation to try expanding the electorate in 2018. Democrats are well positioned to make significant gains in the Wolverine State, including picking up the governorship and two or more House seats, but it will take precinct-level returns to show whether organized labor’s investment paid off.
It’s a slog, and it’s mainly taking place in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, states you may recall were key in handing President Trump the keys to the Oval Office in 2016.
The story is rich with color about what it’s like to do this sort of shoe-leather work. Anyone who’s ever stood on either side of a door can identify with this anecdote:
Other times she knows people are inside in their houses but not answering their doors. When that happens, she often persists in knocking until they come talk to her. “I knock, and I listen for movement,” she said. “If the dog barks and no one tells it to be quiet, I know no one is home. I’ve been doing this for so long that I can kind of feel it.”