Updated, 10:22 a.m., 10/22/20
U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Detroit) hosted a Michigan virtual get out the vote rally for Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden Tuesday night to encourage progressive voters.
“This is a campaign, not only to defeat the most dangerous president in the modern history of this country [Donald Trump], it is a campaign to begin to revitalize American democracy,” Sanders said. “To tell every working person, every low-income person, ‘You are an American. You are not only entitled to vote, and you must take advantage of that, you’re entitled to live your lives with a decent standard of living.’”
Biden defeated Sanders in the March presidential primary, a key victory in securing the nomination. Many progressives backed Sanders, like Tlaib did, or U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). Democrats are eager to prevent progressive defections in the general election, something that hurt 2016 Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton after she beat Sanders in that primary.
U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Dearborn), Flint filmmaker Michael Moore and Detroit Lions’ Oday Aboushi also joined the conversation.
“The largest political party in America is not the Democrats, not the Republicans, not the independents. It’s the nonvoter,” Moore said. “We are either going to sink or swim on Nov. 3, and I don’t want to sink. I’d rather swim with you and everybody else to save this country and save this democracy. So this one time, just give it a shot. Come on out and go vote.”
Dingell, whose district encompasses Dearborn, Ann Arbor and Downriver, echoed Moore’s sentiment about getting traditional nonvoters to the polls next month.*
“I think what we have to do is everybody has to vote. And we got to help those that don’t know how to do it. And we have to help those that have a million reasons why they’re mad at somebody, they think it doesn’t matter,” Dingell said. “It does matter. And you got to vote like your life depends on it this year, because it does. “
Tlaib said when she talks with people in her district, it’s less about convincing them to vote, and more about informing them on how they can vote and what their rights are.*
“Congresswoman Dingell, you see it and I know you hear it and you also talk a lot to Southeastern Michigan that does have these kinds of deep debates. You have Washtenaw County and a huge college campus where folks have these deep debates,” said Tlaib, whose Southeast Michigan district borders Dingell’s district. “But I do think for my district, especially in the 13th District, it is really the how to and making sure that folks have access to this information.”
Some voting laws in Michigan have changed since the last presidential election in 2016. The 2018 constitutional amendment known as Proposal 3 largely makes voting easier. Proposal 3 allows for any-reason absentee voting, straight-ticket voting and voter registration up to the day of the election.
Absentee voting has been one of the most contentious topics around this election the past few months. Democratic state officials are pushing for voters to take advantage of it during the COVID-19 pandemic for safety concerns.
And in Michigan, voters are voting absentee. As of Monday, more than 1.5 million Michiganders have already cast absentee ballots, and nearly 3 million have requested them. Some estimates peg turnout around 6 million, which would set a record. Michigan has roughly 10 million people.
Meanwhile, Trump has been discouraging voters from voting early with absentee ballots, making false claims about voter fraud and election security.
“There are people out there who quite intentionally don’t want you to vote. They’re spending huge amounts of money to do everything possible to prevent you from voting,” Sanders said. “Why is that? Because they are content with a government which is dominated by big money interests who control what goes on in Washington, D.C.”
Michigan has been a hotly contested state after Trump narrowly won it in 2016. Both the Trump and Biden campaigns, as well as and activist groups, have ramped up campaigning in the last few weeks, both in-person and virtually.
“Michigan is key to this election,” Sanders said. “If Trump wins Michigan, we’re gonna have a hard time beating him. You got to make sure that he is defeated in Michigan. Let’s elect Joe Biden. Let’s begin the process of transforming this country.”
Correction: The story has been updated with the correct information on Tlaib’s and Dingell’s districts.