Getting Greens to the Polls

October 21, 2020

You’d think this would not be hard – but the demographic groups most likely to vote for environment issues are those most heavily targeted by Republican suppression.

Harvard Gazette:

The number of registered voters who say climate and the environment is their top priority is rising (from 2 percent in 2016 to 7 percent in 2018). They are, however, failing spectacularly at making themselves heard at the polls. … 10 million registered voters who named the environment as their top priority did not vote in the 2016 election.

Grist:

The jury is in: Most Americans agree that climate change is a problem and would like to see the government do more to reduce carbon and protect our air and water. So, you might ask, why isn’t the government doing more to reduce carbon and protect our air and water? Part of the problem is that green-leaning citizens often don’t make it to the polls. In some elections, they turn out at just half the rate of registered voters overall. And politicians tend to cater to the will of voters, not non-voters.

Transforming environmentalists into faithful voters, and thereby building political power for the climate movement, is the mission of the Environmental Voter Project— an organization founded by 2016 Grist 50 Fixer Nathaniel Stinnet. And, thankfully, Stinnett’s not alone. Other organizations are working on the same goals, such as the advocacy org Georgia Conservation Voters, led by Brionté McCorkle. Fix spoke with Stinnett and McCorkle about their efforts to educate and empower environmental voters, and get them in the habit of casting their ballots — which may include tearing down the barriers that were raised to block their way.

Stinnet: At the Environmental Voter Project, we do two things. We use data analytics to identify environmentalists who don’t vote, and then we leverage the latest behavioral science to turn them into better voters. So we do an enormous amount of research just trying to figure out who are the people who care deeply about environmental issues and climate issues. And our research aligns with the research of a whole bunch of other organizations — what we’re finding is that people who care deeply about environmental issues are more likely to be people of color. They’re more likely to make less than $50,000 a year. And they’re more likely to be young than old.

What do those three groups of people have in common? They are almost always the target of voter-suppression efforts. So, in a very direct and significant way, voter suppression drains power from the environmental movement. When you make it harder for people to vote, chances are you’re hurting the environmental movement.

McCorkle: I would absolutely agree. When I came into environmentalism, I started working on transit — which was my “aha moment” on the connection between environment and social justice issues. People of color have always been incredibly impacted by environmental pollution. They’ve always been concerned about their environmental health, because they’ve been the ones living on the frontlines, living next to the plants and other pollution sources.

And now we’re seeing all of these anticipated changes from climate change — a lot more flooding, wildfires, extreme weather events. We know people of color are most vulnerable.

At Georgia Conservation Voters, we mobilize and organize Georgians to advance environmental and climate justice in our state. So I’m excited to be digging in with people on this issue — doing education and training between elections, and supporting what Nathaniel’s doing in trying to get folks to the polls. Because they’ve got to be able to weigh in on the decisions that are being made about their communities and their lives.

2 Responses to “Getting Greens to the Polls”

  1. rhymeswithgoalie Says:

    McCorkle: I would absolutely agree. When I came into environmentalism, I started working on transit — which was my “aha moment” on the connection between environment and social justice issues. People of color have always been incredibly impacted by environmental pollution.

    Yet some of the most effective changes occurred because Middle Class whites were convinced that it was bad for them, as with LA smog, rivers on fire, etc. I mean, who cares what po’ people think?

  2. doldrom Says:

    Getting them vote is not the real problem.
    The real problem is that politicians will say anything to voters at election time.
    But when it comes to policy, outcomes align for 99% with the donor class, not the voters.


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