Building Grassroots Political Power with Seed the Vote

Solidaire Action has launched a partnership with Seed the Vote, a power-building organization that recruits, trains and supports volunteers to knock on doors and make calls with grassroots groups who are leading the way in key federal election fights and growing our movements for the long-term. Seed the Vote has become a crucial hub for getting extra support to the grassroots organizations that play a critical role in our democracy.

We understand that person-to-person contact with regular, infrequent and first-time voters both builds the power of grassroots organizations and makes a crucial difference in razor-thin elections. In 2016, Trump gained the presidency by a margin of under 80,000 votes in three swing states. In 2020, 44,000 votes in three states separated Biden and Trump from an electoral college tie. To say it plainly, the actions we choose to take and the actions we choose not to take can make a real difference in the future of our country and the world.  

Through our partnership with Seed the Vote, Solidaire Action members are plugging into historic electoral work this year to protect Black movement champions in Congress who are being targeted by the right-wing in the primaries: Summer Lee in Pittsburgh, Jamaal Bowman in NYC, and Cori Bush in St. Louis. This upcoming summer and early fall, we are mobilizing to support the work of grassroots base-building organizations in Arizona, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Georgia and Nevada to expand their impact and to defeat fascism in November.  

As a part of our partnership with Seed the Vote, Solidaire member Melanie Havelin and Solidaire Donor Organizer Nigel Charles helped canvass for Congressperson Summer Lee in Pittsburgh this past May to mobilize working-class voters of color.

Melanie and Nigel’s two-day canvassing mission led them to knock on 300 doors for Lee just a few days before the primary election. And their efforts were fruitful – Lee won her race with an impressive 60.7% of the vote.

Melanie Havelin and Nigel Charles smile outside with a clipboard of Summer Lee canvassing materials

Once Melanie and Nigel returned home, they shared some of their experiences canvassing with us. Nigel shared,

It was an experience that left me energized, inspired and certain that our collective action can secure governing power for our communities. 

Seed the Vote made the canvassing process seamless and easy, handling logistics like lodging and transportation, which allowed us to focus on connecting with voters. Each day, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Melanie and I engaged with voters, listening to their concerns and the issues that are important to them. At one home, I met a Black woman who had just moved into her father’s house. As her partner mowed the lawn out front, she reflected on her dad’s passion for voting rights and his fight to secure them. She said it was time for her generation to start paying attention, and she and her partner left our conversation with a plan for election day.

Canvassing with Melanie reminded me that the heart of organizing — connecting with people — is both critical and joyful. I look forward to achieving more together.

Echoing Nigel’s hopeful sentiment, Melanie shared,

I’ve been canvassing since 1991, and canvassing for Summer Lee alongside Nigel was the best electoral canvassing I’ve ever experienced. Seed the Vote, along with Pennsylvania United, ran an amazingly smooth and joyous operation. The actual door-knocking was lovely. People were home and warmly opened their doors. I will always remember, in particular, a young Black woman who looked a bit tired when she opened her door that Sunday but became more and more engaged as we talked about Summer Lee. Before I left, she thanked me and said she wouldn’t have voted if I hadn’t stopped by, but now she was committed to get to the polls. It’s those kinds of encounters that get me out canvassing at least once a month. Action is truly the antidote to despair.

So the icing on the cake was getting to canvass with brilliant and inspiring Nigel, who, while new to canvassing, taught me A LOT. 

He shared a profound insight into the essential importance of canvassing. He said that supporting Summer Lee was his second objective. Surprised, I asked him what was his top priority. He said it was to show people that they matter. I’ve been canvassing for over 30 years, and that has made me a better canvasser. Thank you, Nigel.

Yard signs reading re-elect Summer Lee Democrat for Congress stacked against the side of a building

Summer Lee’s victory demonstrates how a strong grassroots campaign mobilizing volunteers early can win elections. As one of the first lawmakers to call for a ceasefire, Lee was seen as a clear target for $100 million in funding from The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and additional funding from the Democratic Majority for Israel (DMFI) aimed at unseating progressive incumbents. However, Lee raised more funds than her opponent early on. Her campaigners knocked on 100,000 doors, sent 125,000 texts, made 35,000 phone calls and secured $320,000 for digital and television ads. With a strong field campaign and early fundraising, her favorable early polling results led AIPAC and DMFI to sit out this race.

Lee is just the first progressive Congress member with a primary challenge this year. We are gearing up for more actions, with door-knocking in New York for Jamaal Bowman in June and in St. Louis, Missouri, for Representative Bush in August.

Donate to support Seed the Vote hereLearn more about their 2024 strategy here.