In previous years, voter turnout in Texas wasn’t great. Just over half the state’s eligible voters participated in the 2016 presidential election, including 59.42% of voters in Dallas County.
Two organizations, Rideshare2Vote and Politisit, hope to improve those stats in 2020 by taking care of Dallas area voters’ transportation and childcare needs.
Following the 2016 presidential election, Rideshare2Vote founder Sarah Kovich said she created the ride-share program with the help of one of her daughters.
“I haven’t always cared whether a Dem or a Republican ran the country as long as we were safe and … we could count on sound decisions,” Kovich said. “And that’s just not the case in the last four years, so we’ve got to change.”
Dallas County is breaking early voting records, and at this rate, it could surpass the total number of 2016 votes. With Rideshare2Vote and Politisit’s help, that milestone is all the more possible.
Rideshare2Vote assists voters in Dallas, Collin, Denton and Tarrant counties by having volunteer drivers take them to their nearest polling place, free of charge.
“We want to decrease voter suppression by actively increasing voter turnout,” Kovich said. “We decided that the best way to do that was to actually … be their plan to get them to the polls.”
Although it’s based in Dallas, Rideshare2Vote serves 52 counties in Texas, as well as counties in North Carolina and West Virginia. The organization conducts outreach for Democratic candidates only, but Kovich said that drivers will take anyone to the polls.
Since it first launched in 2018, Rideshare2Vote has driven more than 2,000 voters, Kovich said; since early voting began, they have taken hundreds.
Volunteer drivers are trained in basic voting laws, so they can help explain the process to people who are unfamiliar with how to vote, Kovich said. Also, some of the vehicles are wheelchair accessible, she said.
One early voter sang the organization’s praises in a video testimonial posted to Rideshare2Vote’s Twitter.
“This ride organization is wonderful,” he said. “It gets the elderly, the handicapped, the anybody that needs … to vote.”
Politisit founder Rachel Sowray is based in Portland, Oregon, but her nonprofit works with multiple North Texas facilities to provide free childcare for civic-minded parents.
Dallas' Cross Timbers Family YMCA will watch kids age 12 weeks to 12 years for up to four hours, said Loletha Horton, executive director of community impact for YMCA of Metropolitan Dallas. Parents should check the YMCA's website for updates regarding additional partnering locations, she said.
Politisit has also teamed up with four Fort Worth-area organizations, Sowray said, plus some in Austin and Miami.
Like Kovich, Sowray started her organization as a response to the 2016 election. She said she wanted to help after witnessing excessively long voting lines, since some parents can’t afford to wait for hours to vote.
“We make sure that parents don’t have to worry about childcare so they can be part of the process,” Sowray said.
Although Sowray’s organization is strictly nonpartisan, both Politisit and Rideshare2Vote could stand to benefit the state’s liberals.
During an interview last week, Rebecca Deen, an associate political science professor at the University of Texas at Arlington, told the Observer that minorities and younger people tend to lean left. Also, the more people who turn out to vote, the better Democrats perform, she said.
A 2014 Pew Research Center survey found that 43% of nonvoters are minorities, and nearly half make less than $30,000 per year, which is the poverty line for families of five. Still, Sowray said that there isn’t a financial requirement to use Politisit; anyone can use it who needs it.
From here, Sowray said she hopes to expand Politisit’s operations to more cities nationwide.
“We’re just hoping to see that this will be something that we can scale up in the future so that it becomes normal for people to know they can … have their children safely placed somewhere while they stay involved in our democracy,” Sowray said. “Because the more people who are involved, the stronger our system is.”
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