Muslim voter turnout grew in 2020

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Nearly 1.1 million Muslim voters cast a ballot in the 2020 election, turning out in numbers large enough to swing the presidential race in key battleground states, according to a new report.

The analysis by Emgage, a Muslim American civic group, found that 71 percent of registered Muslim voters in the U.S. went to the polls that year — an uptick of 2 percentage points compared to 2016, and 4 points higher than the nationwide turnout level in 2020.

In the 12 states where the organization signed up and mobilized Muslim voters, the number of registered Muslim voters grew by 27 percent.

The Muslim American community is relatively small in number, but its participation was targeted enough to make a difference in 2020. In Georgia, where President Joe Biden won by almost 12,000 votes, more than 61,000 Muslim voters came to the polls, said the document by Emgage. In Pennsylvania, which Biden carried by nearly 81,000 votes, about 125,000 Muslim voters turned out.

The report demonstrates the impact of Muslim Americans’ efforts in recent years to flex their political muscle. Emgage’s political action committee, which bills itself as the largest Muslim American PAC in the nation, endorsed Biden in the 2020 general election and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in the Democratic primary. Emgage also hosted a Democratic presidential primary forum that year.

The group described its outreach to Muslim Americans as including “making 1.8 million calls, sending over 3.6 million text messages and over 400,000 mailers, knocking on over 20,000 doors, holding over 50 organizing training sessions, and activating 672 volunteers nationwide.” It also held voter registration drives at mosques, ran ads in community newspapers, and joined a get-out-the-vote rally for Muslims in Philadelphia.

Mohamed Gula, national organizing director at Emgage, said the increase in voter participation in 2020 was “all about the conversations that were being had — it’s the belief that we are a part of the American fabric.”

Though Covid-19 forced it to pivot to digital organizing and ballot chasing, Emgage discovered that the accessibility of organizing online gave smaller Muslim groups the ability to participate in their mobilization efforts. The group reported that more than half of Muslim voters in 2020 cast an early or absentee ballot.

Despite its PAC’s support of Biden, Emgage said its voter engagement program in 2020 was nonpartisan and operated through its 501(c)(3). That is changing this year: Emgage told POLITICO it is launching its “Million Muslim Votes 2.0” project to turn out Muslim voters in the 2022 midterms, and plans to take sides this time while canvassing in primaries and general elections.

The group has already issued endorsements in several congressional races — including for progressive Democratic state Rep. Summer Lee in Pennsylvania and Democratic Rep. Andy Levin, who is engaged in a fierce member-on-member primary in Michigan — and there are more to come. Emgage is also expanding its voter outreach to include two additional states, Georgia and Maryland.

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