Op-ed: Students should get involved in Virginia’s elections

Anusha Moudgal, a senior, is the Communications Director for Swing Left GWU. Madeleine Deisen, a Class of 2021 alumna, is the organizations’s outgoing Voter Contact & Training Director.

Getting involved in critical elections cannot end with defeating Donald Trump. If we want to continue working for change, year-round organizing at the state level is key to protecting and expanding our progress. That is why students who are passionate about electing Democrats should volunteer in Virginia’s 2021 gubernatorial and General Assembly races.

When the General Assembly flipped blue in 2019 thanks to the hard work of grassroots volunteers, Virginia became a progressive trailblazer in the South. Democrats in Virginia repealed abortion restrictions, legalized marijuana, abolished the death penalty, expanded voting rights and more. These policies make Virginians’ lives better and they serve as a model for other state legislatures across the country. The only way to protect this progress is to reelect the Democratic trifecta in the Governor’s Mansion, the House of Delegates and the State Senate.

As the only swing state with significant odd-year elections, Virginia is also a trailblazer for the 2022 midterms. If Democrats win in Virginia, it will be a sign of Democratic momentum that will help us win nationwide next year. This is a chance to put our organizing to the test and a great opportunity for students interested in political organizing to grow their skills, including phone banking, canvassing and recruiting volunteers. By building volunteer power and testing our strategies now, we will be prepared to win even more elections in the future.

It is clear why Democrats must win in Virginia this year. The best way to do that is by volunteering in competitive districts where your time will have the biggest impact. In the House of Delegates, candidates in Swing Left’s target districts will win or lose by a handful of votes. In 2019, Delegate Nancy Guy won by 41 – just 41! – votes. College students from American University knocked on over 5,000 doors in her district, proving that young volunteers can be a deciding force in elections.

You don’t have to live in Virginia to get involved. In 2019, Swing Left volunteers nationwide wrote 229,000 letters, knocked on 88,000 doors and made 39,000 calls in our target districts. As college students right next door to Virginia, we have the chance to be a part of the movement to protect the Democratic trifecta and work for progressive change this year.

Last month, a Swing Left GWU volunteer phone banking for Delegate Joshua Cole turned a disengaged voter into an enthusiastic supporter. Team Cole was calling folks in the district not only to gain their support, but also to help connect them with vaccine appointments. The voter was pleasantly surprised and said, “This is the first time a politician has called me to ask how they can help me.” She then asked for more information about Delegate Cole and committed to encouraging her friends to vote for him too.

This conversation is a testament to the power of one-on-one conversations with voters. And with more conversations like that, student volunteers can make a big difference in the election. Swing Left GWU will be writing letters and calling voters every Wednesday this summer to keep Virginia blue, because nothing is more important than protecting democratic progress.

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