Muslim Communities Getting Out The Vote Is One Of The Most Underreported Election 2020 Stories

By Ishraq Ali and Kifah Shah

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Photo by Tiffany Tertipes on Unsplash

In a normal election year, it is usually only around the first Presidential debate or so that most voters of all faith backgrounds begin seriously tuning in.

But this has been no normal election year. Want proof of that? Look at the pre-election engagement we’ve seeing from Muslim voters across the United States for months now.

We should know. We’re the chief organizers behind the #MyMuslimVote project, and senior staff at MPower Change, a prominent Muslim-led digital advocacy organization. My Muslim Vote is one of the largest Muslim voter mobilization projects in the United States. We’re almost entirely volunteer-powered, with organizers in every region of the country. We’ve seen firsthand just how many U.S. Muslim voters are not just watching the news unfold, but getting other U.S. Muslim voters registered as active participants.

It’s one of the most underreported stories of this election year: the rising power of what we might call The Muslim Vote. And while we’re still not seeing most politicians from either major party acknowledge the power of The Muslim Vote, there’s every reason to believe they’ll see it in the turnout next Tuesday, on November 3rd.

The banner of #MyMuslimVote was first raised in the run-up to the 2016 Presidential election, but the sheer influx of participation we’ve seen this year to date already dwarfs what we saw in all of 2016 or 2018. This has included: a National Muslim Voter Registration Day (NMVRD) that easily broke our 2018 record for voter contacts; a national My Muslim Vote summit, originally planned pre-Covid-19 as an in-person event, relocated online with nearly 100 prominent Muslim community and political leaders skills sharing on GOTV strategy, resources and organizing tactics; #MyMuslimVote videos in six different languages (Arabic, Bangla, Dari/Farsi, English, Somali, Urdu), designed for diverse Muslim communities, being widely circulated on social media and WhatsApp; and dozens of Zoom trainings before and after focused on getting out The Muslim Vote.

Why such an unprecedented upswing in U.S. Muslim voter participation this year?

You can guess, but we don’t have to: earlier this year, we worked with several well-known national Muslim advocacy organizations to survey as diverse and wide-ranging a sample of politically engaged U.S. Muslims as possible. The top 5 issues we heard tell a story of their own. As might be expected, U.S. Muslims prioritize an end to the Muslim Ban; a human-rights-focused foreign policy challenging the Saudi-led bombing of Yemen, the displacement of Palestinians and the culture genocide of Uyghur Muslims; and ending religious discrimination. But if you are not a member of Muslim communities, and only learn about us from cable news, you might not know Muslim voters’ other top priorities include ensuring Medicare for All, and passing legislation to stop the epidemic of gun violence in our country.

Our polling effort commenced before the police murder of George Floyd and the summer of uprisings and protest that erupted afterward. Criminal justice reform was already a high priority — but based on the activity of our largely Muslim members since, who have devoted themselves to efforts in recent months like starting difficult conversations on police abolition and the Movement for Black Lives with non-Black Muslim family and friends, we have every reason to believe it’s a higher priority now.

Looking at key states with especially heavy concentrations of Muslim voters, like Michigan and Ohio, it’s plausible that Muslim voters could make the difference in close elections. In Michigan, a stunning 64% of Muslims surveyed said that Medicare for All is a top motivating issue for them electorally. In Ohio, a similar number focused on stopping U.S. support for human rights abuses.

Despite these numbers, Medicare for All and humane foreign policy aren’t issues that we’ve seen covered much as driving election turnout.

Maybe the real question isn’t why so many U.S. Muslim voters are plugged in; it’s why haven’t more candidates and elected officials worked to earn their vote?

As retired Professor and dedicated #MyMuslimVote volunteer Debra Majeed put it: “Muslims represent a significant voting bloc, but too many of us do not realize the level of our power. #MyMuslimVote has proven to be a crucial tool in changing this dynamic.”

We hope so. Muslim voters are a deeply engaged group of voters, powering some of the most crucial GOTV efforts in 2020.

If candidates want to win, they should make sure they’re talking to — and courting — those Muslim voters. Or risk getting left behind.

Ishraq Ali is Field Organizing Director at MPower Change; Kifah Shah is a Campaign Manager at MPower Change.

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MPower Change is a grassroots movement working to build social, spiritual, racial, and economic justice for all people.

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