Rideshare program in Texas driving voters in polls in record numbers
The RideShare2Vote PAC leans Democratic but will take anyone who needs a ride to the polls in effort to combat voter suppression.
Two years ago, Sarah Kovich and Jody Johnson bonded over democracy and it started after Kovich’s then 17-year-old daughter realized major disparities in who was taking part in the process of electing our government.
“It became apparent to her that people here in Texas anyway didn’t go vote nor had transportation to get to the polls,” Kovich tells theGrio in an interview.
That same year the two of them partnered to form RideShare2Vote (R2V), an organization that provides free round-trip transportation to polling places for voters supporting Democrat and progressive candidates in elections.
The organization aims to address the chronic low level of eligible citizens exercising their right to vote. Fast forward to 2020, however, and the gap between those eligible to vote and those who actually cast a ballot has already narrowed.
For instance in Texas, where the R2V crew is headquartered, close to nine million people have already cast a ballot. That’s more than 51 percent of registered voters, according to the Texas Tribune.
“We do not discriminate in our rides, meaning we will take anyone to the polls who want to go because we don’t ask who they are voting for,” says Kovich, founder of RideShare2Vote.
However, in Texas — specifically Harris County — the state’s largest county widespread voter suppression has plagued the state in the months leading up to the 2020 general election. “There are significant barriers to keep people away from the polls and our drivers will drive someone wherever they need to go and it doesn’t matter how far it is,” said Johnson, president of RideShare2Vote.
Voter suppression is one of the driving forces behind why the women behind the ride-sharing program are fascinated with making sure democracy works for everyone.
“Our mission is to fight voter suppression and increase turnout so the people we service typically tend to be suppressed voters, people of color, low propensity voters who are majority younger voters, lower-income voters, and people who have felt excluded from our government,” says Johnson.
In Kovich’s case, the idea of people not being allowed to vote because of socio-economic status and race hit close to home as she was reminded of how her teenage daughter questioned how the political game was being played.
“The injustice is the driving force for me and keeps me doing this work, and on a personal note. my daughters were adopted from Guatemala and so our family doesn’t all look the same and it became very clear to me when they were little that the systemic racism in our country is insidious,” Kovich says.
Recent news events in the state are pushing them even harder to get people to the polls. The Texas Supreme Court earlier this week upheld Gov. Greg Abbott‘s order limiting counties to one drop-off site for absentee ballots.
The ruling from the court concluded that the governor’s proclamation provided voters in the state with enough ways to vote in the November election, but the ruling didn’t satisfy Kovich and Johnson or any of their drivers who say people in some of the states more vulnerable communities remain discarded. The ruling, they say, is the latest attempt to block people from exercising their voting rights.
The decision by the Texas Supreme Court didn’t put the brakes on R2V or its mission. In fact, the organization has seen inquiries for help getting to the polls surge. Calls for rides in the final days leading up to Election Day in America have topped the five hundred mark and leaders say they expect more calls come in as election day draws closer.
“There are significant barriers to keep people away from the polls and our drivers will drive someone wherever they need to go and it doesn’t matter how far it is,” Johnson says. That includes satellite branches of the organization that span some parts of North Carolina, where more than four million people have cast ballots, and West Virginia, where early and absentee ballots top more than two hundred thousand.
“I can not take seeing all of the things people will do to try and take away a person’s right to participate in the Democratic process of electing our government,” says Johnson.
Voter turnout in this election cycle has already reached unprecedented levels with more than 80 million Americans already casting ballots either by absentee, mail-in, or in those states that offer early voting. Volunteers wanting to help get people to the polls but their training had already been in place and with added COVID restriction those volunteers were told to wait until the next round of elections.
Kelsey Minor is a 2x Emmy-awarding winning freelance journalist based in New York City. He can be followed on Twitter HYPERLINK “https://twitter.com/theKELSEYminor”@theKELSEYminor.
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