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As voter suppression laws sweep the country and Congress fails to halt our frightening descent into Jim Crow 2.0, some of the 81 million people who voted for Joe Biden are feeling despondent. The euphoria that came from unseating a would-be dictator who was actively trying to steal a fair election has long since disappeared. Roe v. Wade appears on the cusp of extinction, school districts are banning the honest teaching of race and history, and we’re left grappling with the reality that the leaders who supported the January 6 insurrection are using the Big Lie to legalize election theft across the land.

A functioning democracy cannot continually ask people to out-organize voter suppression. But I’d like to share three reasons why we must work to out-organize what’s happening in state legislatures, especially when it comes to registering new voters — and why cynicism over our prospects for victory would become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

First, let’s consider that we may yet get a deal on federal voting rights legislation. And if we do, we need to be ready for every eligible voter to turn out on November 8, 2022.

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va) helped to craft the Freedom to Vote Act, a pared-down version of the For the People Act. Given his implicit acknowledgment that this bill is necessary and his belief that it should garner at least some Republican votes, will he easily abandon it if it fails to overcome the filibuster? Maybe. After all, Manchin’s voting record is a graveyard for progressive policy proposals. But can he be persuaded to create a filibuster carve-out for voting rights when the filibuster is the only thing standing in his bill’s way? If the public overwhelms him with that demand, I believe it’s possible.

Second, margins matter. In an era where voting is harder, election boards are corrupt, and one side will scream fraud before votes are even tallied, it won’t always be enough to win — we need to win decisively, and that requires big turnout from those we haven’t yet registered.

When Donald Trump tried to strong-arm election officials in Georgia into calling the election for him instead of the clear winner, Joe Biden, he did it because he thought Biden’s margin of victory in Georgia — about 12,000 votes — was small enough to make the lies believable. He never could have pulled off an earnest attempt like that in Michigan, which he carried in 2016 but lost in 2020 by more than 154,000 votes, thanks in part to huge turnout in the Metro Detroit area. His fraud claims there did not pass the smell test, and nor will other fraud claims where big turnout can lead to big enough margins.

Finally, we must work to out-organize the other side because there is no choice. Giving up now is to forfeit the gains of our ancestors who marched, fought, bled and died for the rights that some are trying to rip from our hands today.

The more that angry mobs tried to prevent justice in the 1960s, the harder our people fought. If any generation had the right to feel hopeless, it was that generation — but they pressed onward. They fought until the TV cameras broadcast white violence into millions of living rooms one Sunday night in March, and the next morning Americans — disgusted by the thuggish behavior of police and white Alabamians who attacked peaceful marchers like John Lewis on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma — lit up the switchboards of Congress with demands for passage of the Voting Rights Act.

Our ancestors did not give in to cynicism, and neither can we. They understood that there is a direct line between voter turnout and the forces that influence our lives: the policies that determine whether we have a fair minimum wage, the school board officials who decide whether our children can learn from history and the judges who either adjudicate fairly or reinforce the systemic racism of our criminal justice system. Our votes decide all of it.

A confluence of factors has brought America to this perilous moment, and things may get worse before they stand a chance of getting better. But remember: The reason they’re trying to lock us out of the ballot box is because their policies don’t have the numbers to win fairly. So as we head into 2022, let’s rack up big voter registration numbers. Let’s rack up numbers so big that we frighten those who would steal our dignity and delay our justice, showing them that whatever fight they want to bring, we’re ready.


Andi Pringle is the Political and Strategic Campaigns Director of March On, the March On for Voting Rights and the Registration Nation voter registration initiative.