These Sites Are Offering Democrats a Path Forward

January 23rd 2017

The Women's March drew more than three million supporters across the world over the weekend, and one of the prevailing messages behind the grassroots event concerned participation in upcoming elections.

In order to capitalize on the momentum, a number of left-leaning groups have developed online campaign tools that encourage voters to support Democratic candidates — or run for office themselves — in upcoming elections.

protest-signsAP/John Bazemore - apimages.com

Take Only If You Run, for example.

The political action committee is offering financial support to Democrats who run for state congressional seats in what it considers the seven most gerrymandered states: Florida, Ohio, Virginia, Georgia, North Carolina, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. If prospective candidates decide to enter the race and show some potential to win, the group has pledged to contribute at least $5,000 to their campaigns.

The group's co-founder, Dan Berwick, told ATTN: that the idea for Only If You Run was inspired, in part, by the 2012 congressional election in Pennsylvania, where redistricting efforts by Republican lawmakers two years earlier allowed the party to win three-fourths of the congressional seats despite the fact that Democratic candidates received slightly more than half of the votes. 

Republicans were able to "gerrymander," or redraw electoral districts to suit their preferred outcomes, because they took over the state legislature during the 2010 elections. 

Only If You Run wants to produce the same sort of result for Democrats. 

Their message is simple, "Change at the Federal level starts at the state level." By swinging state house elections in 2017 and 2018, the founders hope to give Democrats a fighting chance during the redistricting effort of 2020. 

"If Donald Trump was facing a Democratic Congress, things would look a lot different right now," Berwick said. "This is the problem that we need to solve in order to exercise our democratic ability to elect a Congress that reflects the governing priorities of the people."

After President Trump was elected in November, Democratic lawmakers and activists started to emphasize the importance of engaging in the political process — to vote, yes, but also to participate in local races.

Swing Left, another election-focused organization, is targeting districts where candidates won by a margin of 15 percent or less. There are 52 swing districts — including 17 that are currently occupied by Democrats — and Swing Left provides resources for voters to donate and volunteer in order to preserve those districts and to flip at least 24 Republican-held seats to retake the House of Representatives in 2018.

The group tweeted on Sunday that 100,000 people have signed up on its site in the past four days alone.

Innovators in the technology sector appear to be responding to increased interest in the political process, says Zack Shapiro, who created an online tool, Call To Action, which enables voters to identify and contact their federal representatives.

"Ultimately what we're building is democratic infrastructure that we haven't needed because elections, up to this point, have been fairly cut-and-dry," Shapiro told ATTN:. He said that a lot of people in the "political activism-tech area" have started building products, either full-time or as side projects, in response to Trump's election.

"The world has changed so fast in the last 18 months," he said. "They want to make it easier for people to figure out what actions to take and then take them in a way that can become a daily habit."

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