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Exterior the Field: The votes of 63 million poor folks might resolve this election

Voters are waiting to cast their ballots in Nationals Park, Washington on October 27th.

Alex Wong / Getty Images

"I've worked hard all my life," Sara Fearrington said of a Poor People & # 39; s Campaign event this summer.

Sara has worked since childhood. She has worked in the medical field, has worked in restaurants and is now – like tens of millions of Americans – unemployed with sick family members to care for. "I'm working as hard as I can, but I'm still broke," she said.

Sara values ​​hard work, family, and public service. However, she is losing her ability to provide for her family.

Millions of Americans know what Sara is going through because they go through it themselves. The real question is whether they can make their voices heard.

Inequality exposed

COVID-19 has exposed the inequality that has existed for decades. In the pandemic, the Campaign of the Poor and the Institute for Political Studies found that approximately 140 million Americans were poor or low-income. At the same time, only three billionaires owned as much wealth as half the country combined.

This already obscene inequality has now exploded during the pandemic.

While people like Sara face greater insecurity, the vast wealth of billionaires has increased. Amazon
AMZN,
-4.30%
Jeff Bezos has seen his fortune grow 70% since March, while Tesla's
TSLA,
-5.56%
Elon Musk saw his billions jump a whopping 300%. This is partly due to the Federal Reserve's generous fiscal and quantitative easing packages and additional resources from the CARES bill.

Now read the following: A longtime GOP donor, Sheldon Adelson is # 1 S&P 500 chief on political spending

Over the same period, over 8 million Americans were infected with COVID-19, 218,000 have died and 8 million have fallen into poverty. Uncertainty about food and housing is increasing. Half of all Americans report financial hardship in the face of this pandemic, while every third child lives with families at risk of becoming hungry or losing their home.

The pandemic has made it clear that Sara and the millions like her are not given a priority by our nation's leadership. The $ 600 weekly unemployment insurance approved by the CARES Act expired in July and millions will see their state unemployment go away during the holidays. But neither the White House nor the Republican-controlled Senate took any action against the two additional aid packages already passed by the House Democrats.

"My voice needs to be heard"

"Why am I not included in the overall picture?" Asks Sara. "None of this is my fault and my voice needs to be heard."

She is right. And that's the silver lining: the poor and low-income people have the power to influence the leadership of this country. You have the power to choose leaders who understand the consequences of deep inequality and widespread economic difficulties – and get them to deal with them.

How much force Poor and low-income voters made up more than a quarter of the electorate in 2016, according to a new report from the Campaign for Poor People. Of the 63 million poor and low-income people eligible to vote, 34 million did not vote.

Election guide: How to vote and make sure your ballot is counted. "Informed voters cannot be suppressed."

Those voices could have made the difference. In Michigan, for example, only 1% of poor voters who didn't vote in 2016 would have made the profit margin. This could be 7% of the poor voters in Florida, 5% in Wisconsin, and 4% in Pennsylvania.

If they choose, economic well-being and health care are the issues that matter most to poor people. Currently, the nation suffers from a lack of both, which gives the struggling Americans a huge stake in these elections.

If the poor and low-income voters who stayed away from the elections in 2016 exercise their right to vote in 2020, that would be enough to put candidates who prioritize eliminating our deep structural inequality above the top and then accountable to pull.

"I come for my politicians," claims Sara. "I get in touch and say, 'If you don't take care of me, I'll let you take care – because I'm here, I'm here for good reason and my voice matters.'"

We are experiencing a time like no other. But the voices – and voices – of those most affected can start to turn things around. Be like Sara: let your voice be heard.

Karen Dolan leads the project on the criminalization of poverty at the Institute for Political Studies. Shailly Gupta Barnes is the Political Director of the Kairos Center and Campaign for the Poor: A National Call to Revitalize Morality.

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