“Withholding The Vote” isn’t a Strategy. It makes you a Non-Motherfucking Factor.

Image of Martin Luther King Jr and his wife, Coretta Scott King, at a ballot box.
Courtesy of Getty Images

It isn’t necessarily what the candidate personally wants to do, but a strategy they need to follow to win.

With the knowledge that voter engagement is a high priority for candidates, if you are announcing that you don’t plan to vote or NEVER vote to begin with, a candidate isn’t going to give a fuck about you. Now that may seem harsh, but if you’re not a voter, as in a person who votes, they honestly can’t afford to pay attention to you. Candidates only have so much time and so much money. Nobody will spend their campaign resources begging for you to vote AND then have to turn around and convince you to vote for them specifically. That is twice the work. Their time is better spent talking to people who they know vote consistently.

Courtesy of Getty Images

We know for sure that they will spend a lot of time courting swing voters and voters who voted for the incumbent in the previous election who are unhappy with their performance.

The winning candidate has been shown they can win without the Black vote and now has no real motivation to gain support from the Black community. Any challenger that may court the Black community and creates a platform that can truly be beneficial for Blacks is now at a disadvantage. If they want to run the next cycle, they are now going up against an incumbent which is far more difficult than running for an open seat. They could attempt to engage Black people who didn’t vote as a way to take the seat, but they may not, because again: time, money, voter engagement. More to the point, they could do all that and still lose because of incumbent privilege, and now you’re back to square one with no leader who wants to be an advocate for the Black community. Now, if the previous race were tight, it would be worth engaging Black non-voters. However, that depends on the population of Black people in your area. Remember what I said about limited time and limited money. If I am not confident I will get you to show up, it makes no sense to invest campaign resources in you. We know for sure that they will spend a lot of time courting swing voters and voters who voted for the incumbent in the previous election who are unhappy with their performance.

No matter the message, political party, or race, the goal for getting out the vote stays the same: learn and motivate VOTERS.

In my opinion, a more effective strategy would be to assert yourself as a community stakeholder with influence that is UNDECIDED. Asserting yourself as an independent voter, not dedicated to a specific party, has weight. An undecided group of voters with influence is worth courting in the candidates’ eyes. A candidate knows that an undecided, independent voter is open to hearing more about a candidate’s plan and honest about any programmatic potential flaws. By making your case a well-connected, undecided voter base, you can position the conversation as an invitation for the candidate to work with you on community initiatives that center Black community needs. In exchange, you will not only vote for them; you will encourage other individuals from the organizations you are involved in to vote for them as well. At that point, your value to the candidate has increased tenfold because you’ve not only formed an alliance, you are connecting them to other voters indirectly and keeping them open for the more time-consuming campaign work: debate preparation, endorsement interviews, and fundraising.

Courtesy of Getty Images

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Courtney Cecelia Welch

Courtney Cecelia Welch

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Oakland native, Black womanist, community advocate, commissioner/ board member, Caleb & Cruz’s mom. https://courtneyceceliawelch.me