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GLAAD's Sarah Kate Ellis: LGBTQ+ Voters Could Decide Key 2020 Races

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We are just 100 days away from the most consequential election of our lifetime. On November 3, voters will decide if we will maintain the status quo or if we will turn the page on this dark moment in American history. As LGBTQ+ people, we can’t afford to be complacent. We must get educated, engaged, and turn out in record numbers. If we do, we can make the deciding difference in the presidential election, as well as key races that will determine control of the U.S. Senate and House — all while contributing to victories LGBTQ+ and pro-equality candidates up and down the ballot.

Consider these facts.

Exit polls during the 2018 midterm elections — when a pro-equality majority took control of the House and a rainbow wave of LGBTQ+ candidates were elected —indicate that 6 percent of the overall voting electorate identified as LGBTQ+. Of that 6 percent, 82 percent supported pro-equality candidates. Meanwhile, a study released in November 2019 from the Williams Institute indicates that 21 percent — more than one in five — of LGBTQ+ voters are NOT registered

Then consider this.

Razor-thin victories in key swing states resulted in Donald Trump becoming president, despite losing the popular vote in 2016. He carried Michigan — with its critical 16 electoral college votes — by a margin of just 10,704 voters. Activating a dormant 15 percent of the approximately 87,000 LGBTQ+ voters could have flipped the state. In Pennsylvania, Trump won and received the state’s 20 electoral votes by a margin of just 44,292 votes out of nearly 5.9 million cast. There are approximately 190,557 unregistered and/or nonvoting LGBTQ+ people there — meaning, activating an additional 25 percent or so would have changed the outcome. Similar scenarios played out in Florida, Arizona, and North Carolina.

And make no mistake about it. The Trump administration has been disastrous for LGBTQ+ people. In all, GLAAD has tracked more than 160 attacks in policy and rhetoric from the president and his appointees since he took office in January 2017, and the number continues to grow. It literally started on day one with the removal of all mentions of LGBTQ+ people and policy from the official White House website and has continued nonstop. From the egregious ban on transgender service members to the elimination of tracking LGBTQ+ bullying and harassment in our schools to arguing against our equality in front of the U.S. Supreme Court, the attacks have been incessant. The president even asserted that businesses should be able to hang signs in their windows that say, “Gays Not Allowed.”

Our ability to influence the future doesn’t stop at the White House though. In 2018, LGBTQ+ voters and our allies helped to create a Rainbow Wave — electing an unprecedented number of LGBTQ+ people to public office at all levels and contributing to the tide that swept in a pro-equality majority in the U.S. House of Representatives. This year, we can do the same in the U.S. Senate as pro-equality candidates across the country mount formidable campaigns and give us the opportunity to elect leaders who will not just stop the onslaught of attacks we have experienced in the last four years, but who will also put equality and acceptance back on the agenda, including bringing the Equality Act to a vote and sending it to the president’s desk for a signature.

But nothing will change if we don’t do our part. As we begin this 100-day countdown, I call on everyone in our community to commit to doing three critical things.  Number one, make sure you are registered to vote. Number two, talk to 10 people you know and let them know how this election impacts you as an LGBTQ+ person or impacts an LGBTQ+ person you love. Number three — and if you don’t do this nothing else matters — show up to vote.

We have 100 days to impact the course of history and put LGBTQ+ equality and social justice back on the forward-moving path. Don’t sit this one out.

Sarah Kate Ellis is the president and CEO of GLAAD

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