So You Want to Save Democracy?
A guide to participating in the 2020 Election
A Note on this Document:
1. Every little bit helps. 20 minutes of phone banking is better than no phone banking. 10 postcards is better than no postcards. $5 is better than no dollars.
2. Rebecca Solnit said “I think of voting as a chess move, not a Valentine.” Elections are about choices - given the viable options, we pick the best one.
1. Issue campaigning and down ballot races are incredibly important and drive turnout through engagement. You don’t have to campaign for candidates you don’t like, but you can do something.
2. I have bad news for you: signing up for the email list doesn’t count if you don’t read the emails and do the actions they send you. Same goes for text message alerts.
3. Some options will be in more than one section because they apply to more than one heading.
4. I am a flawed, imperfect person and this is a flawed, imperfect doc. I welcome feedback! It’s also a working document, so check back for updates. Submit feedback here - if you want a response, leave your email in your comment.
1. (a bit about me - 31 year old New Yorker, civic engagement is my love language, you can find me at @notthemessenger on twitter)
2. If you want to get emails from me once (and occasionally twice) a week highlighting opportunities and providing entertainment/inspiration, submit your email in the feedback form!
5. You can do this! I promise. Your voice matters, your actions matter. Your participation matters. Democracy is at its best when we all have a voice, and your work will help make that happen.
Table of Contents:
* Be a Voter - Make a Plan
* I want to be a poll worker
* I want to talk to voters who can talk back (text, phone banking)
* I want to talk to voters who can’t talk back (letters, postcards)
* I want to talk to people, but not about voting
* I want to talk to my friends
* I have skills and I want to share them with campaigns
* I want to work on a specific state
* I want to give away my money (Note this section also has organizations you can volunteer for - these organizations have a general volunteer form you can use to sign up for rather than specific opportunities. They are all great, if you’re interested in volunteering for them!)
Be a Voter - Make a Plan
First things first: get your own house in order.
* You can check your voter registration here. Or here. Or here. If you’re not registered, you can register there too. And then you can send the link to all your friends so that they can make sure they are registered to vote too.
* Vote Save America state by state guide - “From their website: Look up your state to get more information about voting in your state, how to get involved, and donation opportunities.”
* 538 State by State Voting Guide - Click on your state for more information about voting access in the age of COVID, including information on registration, early voting, in person voting, vote by mail and other deadlines.
* Plan Your Vote - NBC News Voting Guide - From their website: “Mark your calendars. Everything you need to know about mail-in and early in-person voting, including the first day you can cast your ballot in the 2020 election.”
* And you can get more info on signing up for your mail-in ballot here.
You can also volunteer with Rock the Vote here to help register voters and fight for voting rights. They are looking for everything from help with events to social media sharing to policy research.
I want to be a poll worker
Poll workers are an incredibly important part of our election system. They are the people who hand you your ballot, who check your signature, who help you out with the machines. In 2016 over half of poll workers across the country were over 60.
But with the pandemic, most of our poll workers fall into a high risk category. And Republicans regularly use a lack of poll workers as an excuse to close polling sites, making it much harder for people to vote, particularly communities of color and low income communities.
If you can, sign up to be a poll worker for your state here.
I want to talk to voters who can talk back (text, phone banking)
* Phone banking
* Most campaigns these days use autodialer platforms. These are fairly easy to use and fairly intuitive but can take some training. The autodialer cycles through the phone numbers much faster than a person can, and only picks up if the person on the other end answers. You hear a beep, and then you launch into your spiel.
* Phone banking can feel kind of tedious and difficult when you get a lot of wrong numbers or when you reach people who don’t support your candidate, but phone banking is as much about gathering info as it is about persuading voters.
* Every wrong number you identify helps clean the list so the call rate is more effective
* Every supporter you identify, even when they don’t have time to talk, is another person the campaign can contact later to see about volunteering
* Every supporter of the opponent you find is one less person the campaign wastes their time on.
* If you can phonebank, you should! Even 20-30 minutes a week. Voter contact is a very important part of campaigns.
1. Sign up to phone bank with a campaign. You can usually find this on their website under Events/Action Center/Volunteer.
1. You can do this from your house!
2. You can do it for as long or as short as you like
3. Depending on the campaign, you can jump right into it or they will offer some kind of training.
2. Organize your friends to phone bank
1. Once you’ve been trained and you have access to the documents and links you need, you can train your friends!
2. Use Zoom, Skype, Google Meet or whatever service you like best to get your friends together and make calls together. It’s way more fun when you can complain about bad calls and celebrate good ones together
3. If you want to jump into phone banking with the Biden campaign and you don’t feel like you need training, you can do so here.
4. If you’ve never done this before, haven’t done it in a while, or you want a little more support while phone banking, you can sign up for one of the events at the following links.
1. Crooked Media volunteer page
2. Find virtual events with other volunteers near you through Swing Left.
5. Progressives for Biden Phone Bank - From their website: “Join us every Thursday at 7 pm ET for a Progressives for Biden phone bank with Biden for President and the Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC). Each week will be themed around a different issue with a guest speaker to talk about Joe Biden's plans on that issue. After the speaking portion, we will all jump on the phones to talk with voters about what we have learned!”
6. Reclaim Our Vote
1. From their site: “Ongoing voter suppression and voter list purging have been disenfranchising millions of eligible voters -- especially voters of color. Reclaim Our Vote works in those voter suppression states. Our volunteers inform and mobilize voters of color to make sure they are registered and they know how to get a ballot and vote. It is a nonpartisan campaign of the nonprofit 501(c)3 Center for Common Ground.”
2. Reclaim Our Vote works with partner organizations in specific states to reach voters so that they can check if they’re registered, if they’ve been purged from the voter rolls, and to make sure they know how to get their ballots
3. You can text, phone bank, or write postcards to voters in targeted areas.
7. Sunrise Movement - From their website: “Sunrise Movement demands a new chapter in this country and encourages other groups in the climate and environmental movement to join us in speaking out. As climate activists, we imagine a world that looks nothing like our own, one where we stop climate change by transforming our whole economy.”
1. Elect Candidates who Champion the Green New Deal - you can sign up to make phone calls on behalf of Sunrise Movement endorsed candidates.
8. Justice Democrats - From their website: “Justice Democrats is working to elect a mission-driven caucus in Congress that will fight for solutions that match the scale of our many crises: skyrocketing inequality, catastrophic climate change, deepening structural racism as the country becomes more diverse, and the corporate takeover of our democracy.”
1. This is a general volunteering form, but one of the options you can choose is phone banking, so once you’ve filled out the form, someone will reach out to you about specific opportunities.
9. Sierra Club Phone Banking and Training - From their website: “Today, years of hard-fought environmental protections are under threat—and to influence governments and businesses, we need everyone to speak up and shout out. Explore how you can get involved.”
10. Flip the West - From the website: “At Flip the West, our mission is to take back the U.S. Senate and White House. And we need your help. With the help of thousands of volunteers, our programming is reaching the voters we need to win in Arizona, Colorado, Montana, Iowa, and Alaska. Please help us make the Senate progressive and blue!”
* Text banking
* Text banking is great because you can reach hundreds of voters in a couple of hours. Lots of campaigns have text banking operations, but so do many organizations.
* Text banking is actually best done on a computer, but can also be accomplished through an app on your phone
* Note that while you won’t get anyone yelling at you in person, people do have a tendency to be a bit meaner on text because they can’t see you. Anonymity