The No On Issue 1 campaign fueled by grassroots energy and investment in groups on the ground defeated the GOP’s harmful attack on voting rights in Ohio. This election was proxy campaign for the upcoming abortion ballot referendum in November. The Ohio August special election showed us again that abortion and preserving our democracy are winning issues for Ohio Democrats.
Democrats cannot continue to ignore rural voters. Democrats have to cut margins in rural America and the Republican extremism on abortion rights presents the biggest opportunity to engage rural voters. (That’s something we knew from our polling of rural voters in 2020 and 2022.) When it comes to abortion rights, the grassroots excitement, even in small towns and rural communities, has been activated and will continue to build ahead of November. Our biggest challenge is leveraging local rural power for partisan gains, but our August efforts showed that traditional field campaigns supplemented with visibility tactics can turn out communities traditionally forgotten by electoral campaigns.
RuralOrganizing.org’s No on 1 Campaign
After months of on-the-ground organizing efforts by community groups, rural and small-town Ohio voters defeated Issue 1 by a hefty margin. The ballot measure would have severely restricted the ability of citizens to amend their constitution and further empowered the Republican supermajority in Columbus.
RuralOrganizing.org played a key role in this victory by mobilizing rural and small-town voters in distributing yard signs across the state and turning out voters in Athens County in collaboration with our partner group Indivisible Appalachian Ohio.
Yard Sign Campaign
Our theory is simple. Local Democrats are best positioned to rebuild the Democratic brand in Rural America, and the lack of rural “visibility” and “Democratic identity” is bleeding votes. Over 653,000 strong Democrats live in rural Ohio. Over the last decade, they have felt ignored, lonely, and isolated; and, as a result, have grown silent. We believe the only way to cut margins in rural and small-town Ohio is if local Democrats come “out of the shadows”, hence our yard sign campaign.
Leveraging our existing network and tapping into undiscovered networks, we organized nearly 150 community civic leaders who joined an “Ohio Yard Sign Squad” to regionally plot the distribution and delivery routes. Community leaders then delivered signs to their neighbors and asked them to attach a letter to each sign that asked the recipient to e-mail RuralOrganizing.org once the sign was placed. We’ve received over 144 e-mails, including over 100 new contacts in rural and small-town communities that we plan to mobilize for the November abortion referendum election.
Next, we must perfect the strategy in Ohio during the 2023 abortion ballot so we can expand the program to key Senate states in 2024. We will continue to work with local leaders to put up signs that will encourage local Democrats to talk about their abortion beliefs.
Athens County Field Program
Athens was the core of our door knocking operation. With a field of new organizers, we engaged with likely progressive voters who just needed an extra nudge to get to the polls for this crucial election. In six short weeks we were able to have 1,950 conversations and made over 8,000 voter contact attempts. With the final results tallied, there were just over 9,000 No voters in Athens county, which shows how deeply we were able to go into the community.
RuralOrganizing will be reengaging in Athens and surrounding areas for this November’s reproductive rights campaign. Be sure to be on the lookout for ways to get involved!
Though this attack on our democracy has been stopped, RuralOrganizing.org now turns our focus to November, when reproductive access is on the ballot. We look forward to expanding our program into counties adjacent to Athens and distributing over 10,000 pro-choice yard signs.