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Vermont Poor People's Campaign wants to mobilize low-income voters ahead of 2024 election

A group of around 10 people stand around a podium holding black and yellow signs.
Peter Hirschfeld
Vermont Public
Kate Kanestein, at the podium, with the Vermont Poor People's Campaign, says the group will try to mobilize thousands of low-income Vermonters in the run up to the 2024 general election.

Martin Luther King Jr. launched the Poor People’s Campaign more than 50 years ago as a way to strengthen the political power of low-income Americans. A group of Vermonters is drawing on his legacy now as they try to boost turnout in the 2024 general election.

Research has consistently shown that low-income Americans are statistically less likely to vote than their higher-income counterparts. Burlington resident Kate Kanelstein, one of the chairs of the Vermont Poor People’s Campaign, said there’s a reason turnout has historically been low among people living in poverty.

“Many people who are impacted by poverty and the struggles that we’re talking about here today have developed a kind of hopeless(ness) in the ability to make change because of what we’ve experienced in our lives,” Kanelstein said at a press conference in Montpelier Tuesday.

The Vermont Poor People’s Campaign is part of a nationwide effort to energize the low-income electorate this year with a mass mobilization effort in the run up to the 2024 general election.

"I want people to know that they have a voice and that they can demand to be heard by using their votes."
Ronnie Liddell, campaign volunteer

Ronnie Liddell, a campaign volunteer who formerly relied on state-subsidized motel housing, said politicians are more likely to address the needs of people living in poverty if they feel pressure at the ballot box to do so.

“I want people to know that they have a voice and that they can demand to be heard by using their votes,” Liddell said.

Kanestein said the campaign will have a special focus on issues of housing, health care, anti-racism and environmental justice.

“We are organizing poor and low-wage people to change the political landscape, because we poor and low-wage people, we are a sleeping giant with the power to fundamentally change this country,” she said.

The campaign kicks off next month in Montpelier with a rally at the Statehouse on March 2.

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The Vermont Statehouse is often called the people’s house. I am your eyes and ears there. I keep a close eye on how legislation could affect your life; I also regularly speak to the people who write that legislation.
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