A Chance to Expand Medicaid Rallies Democrats in North Carolina

If low-income registered voters cast ballots at the same rate as higher-income voters in 15 states that went to Mr. Trump in 2016, including North Carolina, they would match or exceed his margin of victory in those states, the study found. And for many, access to health care has been an elusive goal, often with devastating consequences.

In an interview, Dr. Barber said the coronavirus pandemic had turned that lack of access into a crisis.

“Covid has forced the conversation about health care,” he said. “There’s no way you cannot talk about it.”

Dr. Barber is quick to remind his audiences in North Carolina that Senator Tillis helped lead a successful effort in the legislature to pass a law prohibiting Medicaid expansion in 2013, when he was the speaker of the House of Representatives. The Poor People’s Campaign has recruited more than 5,000 volunteers in eight states “who are committing to call over one million poor and low-wage people who did not vote last time, are willing to be poll watchers, or are going to canvas in communities with their face shields and masks and gloves,” he said, “because it’s a matter of life and death in the real sense.”

Jessica Holmes, a Democrat running for commissioner of labor, said such efforts were motivating people like her 84-year-old grandmother, who she said has never voted in a presidential election until now.

“We’re in the greatest medical crisis of many of our lifetimes,” Ms. Holmes said, “and yet all across North Carolina we’re talking about selling hospitals or clinics closing.”

Joseph Danko, 54, who lost his construction job in March and suffers from asthma, was anguished to learn he was ineligible for Medicaid despite having next to no income. Anxiety about health care was a prime reason that Mr. Danko, of Raleigh, voted early for Mr. Biden and other Democrats, he said, delivering his mail-in ballot in person “to be 100 percent sure” it would be counted.

“It’s been a crazy year,” he said, “but we are hoping and praying for change.”

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