As grassroots organizers in Georgia worked frantically in the weeks leading up to the Senate runoff elections in January, more than 800 UU the Vote volunteers were diligently making thousands of phone calls to voters from their homes. The result was nothing short of extraordinary, helping to build unprecedented voter turnout that delivered the victory of two Democratic Senators in races many projected them to lose, rebalancing power in the U.S. Senate, and electing Georgia’s first Black senator, the Rev. Dr. Raphael Warnock.
In partnership with Georgia Equality, UU the Vote volunteers also coordinated Peaches and Pride, an LGBTQ-focused voter mobilization event featuring Latrice Royale from RuPaul’s Drag Race and Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Jericho Brown, as well as television and Broadway artists. “When the Georgia runoff happened, we were able to see all of the skills and dedication from folks across the country exist in one place,” said Nicole Pressley, national organizer for UU the Vote. “It made very clear what we built.”
The big win in Georgia was just one in a string of successes for UU the Vote over the past year, which ultimately reached millions of U.S. voters—and contributed to a historic turnout.
UU the Vote was designed to build skills that “spoke beyond this particular electoral cycle,” said the Rev. Ashley Horan.
In June 2020, UU the Vote set and surpassed an ambitious goal for the week of the Unitarian Universalist Association’s Virtual General Assembly, making 117,000 calls to Texas primary voters for the presidential election in partnership with Reclaim Our Vote.
That early success helped many UUs understand that “our community has power,” said Pressley.
In late October, UUs participated in Harvest the Power, another week of focused outreach to voters. Harvest the Power set out with the goal of ensuring that UU the Vote would reach 2 million voters by Election Day. UU the Vote far exceeded its goal, reaching 3.3 million by November 3.
UU the Vote was designed to build skills that “spoke beyond this particular electoral cycle,” said the Rev. Ashley Horan, UUA Organizing Strategy director. Part of its mission is “to start building infrastructure to add capacity to all of our justice movements,” Pressley added. The U.S. Capitol insurrection on January 6 showed that more infrastructure is needed “to carry this work forward.”
Pressley said the larger goal is to create “a groundswell of Unitarian Universalists” and “put them in partnership with frontline organizations: Black, Indigenous, Latinx people of color on the ground that are rooted in communities and accountable to them.” Building these relationships and sharing resources is important because “we’re not going to get democratic outcomes without democratic systems,” she said.
UU the Vote partnered with Vote Forward to send more than 1.5 million postcards and letters to voters. The Coalition of UU State Action Networks connected the campaign to more communities, including with Latinx organizations in Arizona focused on incarceration and immigration.
Going forward, UU the Vote wants to channel UUs who got mobilized during the election to hold national and local officials accountable to campaign promises that include addressing white supremacy, creating systemic responses to the pandemic, and reestablishing confidence in the democratic process, said Horan. She added that UU the Vote will continue to support local organizing in congregations, and “follow the lead of our movement partners” on issues related to climate change legislation and responding to the police state.
Ongoing work also includes Organizing School, a series that builds organizing skills and strategies and equips people with “clear antiracist strategies and framework,” said Pressley. “UU the Vote has been an entry point, not just to electoral justice work, but to an awakening of taking action when the moment requires.” As UUs continue to find ways to engage in the work, what’s most important, she said, is “to find our roles. Find our lane and fight like hell until we win.”
Connect with UU the Vote at uuthevote.org.