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Special Project

Special Project
From the 4th Annual Shorty Social Good Awards

Rising to the Occasion: How HRC Mobilized Equality Voters in 2018's Victorious Midterms

Finalist in Civic Engagement


The Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest organization fighting for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer equality, wanted to send a clear message to the Trump-Pence administration on Election Day: the majority of Americans reject their dangerous and discriminatory agenda. HRC went on the offense and created HRC Rising — a proactive grassroots expansion to mobilize pro-equality voters in six priority states and nationwide ahead of the 2018 midterm elections. 

HRC began organizing for the 2018 elections earlier than ever before, with its biggest strategic investment in the organization's history. This cycle, HRC rolled out the most robust get-out-the-vote effort, reaching beyond our own 3 million members and supporters with a new "Equality Voter Model” that targeted voters based on their support for LGBTQ-inclusive policies. Our digital grassroots army expanded to more than 7 million activists that ultimately provided the margins in key and critical races across the country to help elect pro-equality candidates up and down the ballot in November.

Strategy and Execution

HRC made a strong and early push on social leading up to and throughout the 2018 midterms to mobilize against the Trump-Pence administration's agenda and elect pro-equality candidates in Arizona, Michigan, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin – pivotal battleground states. HRC's digital team hired digital organizers and strategically established six new state-specific Twitter handles and Facebook Groups to better engage and mobilize volunteers and voters to turn out the vote for equality in these critical states.

HRC’s unique digital outreach was based on an "Equality Voter Model." HRC targeted with a high degree of accuracy not only LGBTQ voters, but allies — "Equality Voters" — who were likely to oppose candidates who attack the civil rights of LGBTQ people. Using digital ads and Twitter and Facebook posts to target and mobilize Equality Voters, we helped sign up countless people through our online Equality Voter Action Center to let HRC members, supporters and volunteers get involved, register to vote or join advocacy training courses.

Throughout the 2018 cycle, HRC endorsed more than 480 pro-equality candidates nationwide. For these endorsements, HRC's digital team released a combination of videos, image shares and blog posts across our social media platforms, including Twitter and targeted posts on Facebook to educate voters about what was at stake for the rights of LGBTQ people and other marginalized communities nationwide. Additionally, we updated our state pages on, sent out releases and blasted out emails to our members and supporters in those areas to reflect the latest developments happening on the ground, making a key hub for recent news and events. In the final months and the days leading up to the November midterms, HRC's digital organizers and video team documented and uploaded engaging content that focused on the groundswell of excitement and support generated from Equality Voters on the ground. 

HRC's digital team strategically utilized hashtags specific to states, such as #OHLeg, #WISen and #NVGov, to help target prospective voters and volunteers to mobilize for our endorsed candidates in those areas. We highlighted our opponents and our allies using their handles and created image shares to inform our followers in these states on their records on equality, while also engaging with our endorsed candidates on their platforms to help cross-promote and amplify our digital content for further engagement and reach even more potential voters.

HRC's Equality Votes PAC spent $3.2 million to drive turnout through direct mail and digital ads in priority races, including Senators Tammy Baldwin, Jacky Rosen, Kyrsten Sinema, Harley Rouda, Mike Levin and Representatives Sharice Davids and Angie Craig. Through these tested ads, HRC was able to reach more than 4.6 million voters across priority races.

We helped changed hearts and minds, and in turn, helped recruit and mobilize voters for LGBTQ equality. We mobilized like our rights were on the ballot — because they were. Through digital signups, more than 4,000 HRC volunteers worked 8,500 shifts in support of pro-equality candidates clocking 30,000 volunteer hours.


As part of HRC's GOTV digital campaign, we released hundreds of compelling videos featuring HRC-endorsed candidates that reached 5.1 million voters in key races across the country and amassed over 37 million impressions. In the final days of the election — with the help of our digital outreach — HRC registered more than 30,000 voters and knocked on 80,000 doors.

For the first time ever, HRC’s grassroot movement of Equality Voters helped elect a historic rainbow wave of LGBTQ candidates to offices at all levels of government. Wisconsin Senator Tammy Baldwin was reelected to the U.S. Senate while Kyrsten Sinema became the first openly bisexual person elected to the Senate. Colorado’s Jared Polis became the first openly gay man to be elected governor in the U.S., and Oregon Governor Kate Brown, the first LGBTQ governor in history, was reelected. Sharice Davids became the first gay Native American lawmaker in Congress.

We know that elections matter and the importance of turning victory into tangible results. Just a week into 2019, governors from Kansas, Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin signed executive orders protecting LGBTQ state employees from discrimination, and two pro-LGBTQ bills were sign into law in New York.

Exit polls showed the LGBTQ community exceeded turnout levels from the 2016 presidential race. HRC's Super PAC achieved a 97.2% success rate, which is "the best track record of any group that spent on at least ten different races."


Video for Rising to the Occasion: How HRC Mobilized Equality Voters in 2018's Victorious Midterms

Entrant Company / Organization Name

Human Rights Campaign